Louise De Ramezay

De Ramezay, Louise

Time Period

Pre 1750

Notable Facts

Louise de Ramezay was a seigneur, entrepreneur, and property owner in early New France. She was born into a powerful noble family in Montreal. After her father's death, she gradually took over her family's property holding and managed the Quebec sawmill her father built. Later, she opened and managed two more sawmills, and operated a tannery. In 1749, she was granted the seigneury of Ramezay-la-Gesse on the western shore of Lake Champlain. Even after most French nobles returned to France in 1760, Louise de Ramezay spent the rest of her life in Quebec.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

07/06/1705

Date of Death

10/22/1776

Primary Residence

Unknown

Religion

Catholic

Ethnicity

Caucasian

Historical Significance

Born into an influential family in New France, Louise de Ramezay spent her childhood among other nobles. Her father, Claude de Ramezay, was the governor of Montreal, and her sister, Mother Saint-Claude de Ramezay, became the Mother Superior of Quebec City's Hopital General, known as the "warrior nun" for her work during the British attack on Quebec in 1759. Educated by the Ursuline Convent in Quebec, she remained single all her life. Even as a child, she was engaged in the life of the aristocracy, appearing at official functions, and nursing the sick during a smallpox epidemic in 1724. After her father's death that year, she slowly became involved in managing her family's prodigious properties. From 1739 to 1765, she consistently administered the sawmill that her father had built on the Riviere des Hurons. The sawmill drew upon the rich timber of the Richelieu river and Lake Champlain area, creating lumber for French ships at Quebec. Louise de Ramezay ran her business largely from afar, supervising and settling debts but hiring a foreman to take charge of the mill's day-to-day workings.

In the 1740s, de Ramezay entered into several other entrepreneurial ventures. In 1745, she opened a new sawmill and flour-mill on the seigneury of Rouville in partnership with Marie-Anne Legras, the wife of Jean-Baptiste-Francois Hertel de Rouville, which operated under their partnership for sixteen years. The next year, in 1746, she entered into partnership with Jean Chartier, a habitant with land in the seigneury of La Livaudiore, to the west of Lake Champlain along the Chazy River. In 1749, she acquired a tannery in Coteau-Saint-Louis on Montreal Island. Also in 1749, she was granted the seigneury of Ramezay-la-Gesse, of "six leagues front by six leagues depth of Lake Champlain" surrounding the River au Sable on the western side of the lake, directly across the lake from what is now Colchester.

Residing mainly in Montreal, Louise de Ramezay ran her many businesses efficiently and successfully, likely because of her own business acumen, and the many connections and advantages that her social position awarded her. It was not uncommon for European noblewomen to manage family affairs in the absence or death of men, and Louise de Ramezay was one among a group of formidable noblewomen in New France who directed ventures in fur trading, textiles, potteries, fishing and hunting, and iron forging. Indeed, one suggestion of her success, and of her love of life in New France, is that she chose to stay in Canada in 1760 after most nobles, including her brother, fled back to France after the British victory at Quebec.

In 2009, she was recognized as part of Vermont's Champlain Quadricentennial celebration.

Occupations

  • business owner
  • seigneur

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Noel, Jan. Women in New France, Canadian Historical Association, Historical Booklet No. 59. Ottawa: The Canadian Historical Association, 1998.
  • Pare, Helene. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, Louise de Ramezay, Link
  • Coolidge, Guy Omeron. The French Occupation of the Champlain Valley from 1609 to 1759. Harrison, New York: Harbor Hill Books, 1979.