Esther Brandeau

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Esther Brandeau (flor. in Canada 1738–39) was the first Jewish girl to set foot in Canada, or New France, in 1738.[1] She was born c. 1718, probably at Saint-Esprit-lès-Bayonne (near Bayonne), in the diocese of Dax.[2]

Around that time, Canada was the only colony of the New World never reported to have been visited by a Jew.[3] Born in France, Brandeau was able to come to New France because she pretended she was a Roman Catholic boy.

Brandeau named herself Jacques La Fargue and became a sailor in Bordeaux, on a ship bound for the port of Quebec. She came to New France upon a ship called the St-Michel and stayed only a year.[4] After a brief masquerade, Esther's religion and gender were both discovered. As a non-Catholic in a legally Catholic country, she was arrested on direction of Intendant Hocquart of New France and taken to the Hôpital Général in Quebec City.

Hocquart initially became under the impression that Brandeau was desirous of converting to Catholicism and remaining in the colony. However, later he wrote to the minister in France that attempts to have her convert to the Roman Catholic faith had failed. She desired to live in Canada as a Jew. The government decided on deportation, and after correspondence with authorities in France, she was sent back to her home in France on a ship named Comte de Matignon at the expense of the State.[2]

There are fictional books on Esther: the 2004 novel Esther by Sharon E. McKay[5] and the 2012 novel The Tale-Teller by Susan Glickman.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Esther Brandeau". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved January 4, 2008.
  2. ^ a b Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
  3. ^ "The JPS Guide to Jewish Women, 600 BCE to 1900 CE" (PDF). Cheryl Tallan. Retrieved January 4, 2008.
  4. ^ "Manitoba Jewish History". Manitoba Historical Society. Retrieved January 4, 2008.
  5. ^ "Esther: Sharon McKay". Retrieved January 4, 2008.
  6. ^

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