Hubert Prévost the entrepreneur: An independent woman

Fifth of an eight-part series describing the real and imagined life of Hubert Prévost of Maisonneuve.

Before 1886 ended, Hubert married for a second time to Héloise Lapointe of Mascouche, herself a widow.

Héloise Lapointe was born on November 9, 1848 to Napoleon Desautels dit Lapointe and Marie Olive Guerray in Mascouche. Despite the similar surnames, Héloise does not appear to be a close relation to Zoe Alvina’s mother’s Lapointe family.

In 1860, there were four schools in Mascouche: Cabane-Ronde, Grand Coteau, Petit Coteau et Pincourt. It’s quite likely Héloise Lapointe attended one of them as she is shown on the 1861 census as attending school. This is important because, for many years, attempts to create an educational system for Catholics failed. In 1846, a new law allowed the creation of school boards by ensuring the collection of a tax devoted to the financing of the education system. Each Catholic parish church became de facto the territory of a school board. A significant proportion of the population opposed a tax being imposed to support education. Worse, many parents, especially farmers, did not see the value of educating children. This period of the 1840s is called la guerre des éteignoirs, because in some places, schools were set on fire. Héloise is probably the first generation of her family to receive an education.

According to the 1861 census, Héloise’s family includes nine persons who are living in a single-story house of wood construction. Her father appears to be a farmer (according to the 1851 census) and is illiterate. In 1871, Héloise Lapointe is still living with her parents and six siblings in St-Henri (l’Assomption).

Héloise (Eloise) Lapointe and Philias Roy of Mascouche, a notary, marry in 1877. Before the wedding, they sign a marriage contract where they are separatist of property and that the bride will pay the costs of the marriage and contribute household items valued at $100.

Shortly after their marriage, Héloise and Philias lived in the west end of Montreal island, in St Joachim de la Pointe Claire Village. Philias died in 1882 in Mascouche. They had no children.

How Hubert and Héloise met is a mystery, but on the documented evidence available, they appear to have been a team when it came to business.

For married women, unlike single or widowed women, the right to use and dispose of their own property didn’t come into effect until 1884 in Ontario and 1900 in Manitoba. The Married Women’s Property Act gave married women in these provinces the same legal rights as men, which allowed these women to be able to enter into legal agreements and buy property. Quebec did not include the act into the Civil Code until 1964!

Yet, that was not always the case in practice. In an article entitled Surviving as a Widow in 19th-century Montreal, Bettina Bradbury writes:

The women who remarried appear to have been wealthier than those who did not. A disproportionate number had signed marriage contracts at the time of their marriage, a practice more widespread among the wealthy, and particularly the propertied classes. Furthermore, several had already exercised more legal and economic freedom within their marriages than most Quebec women, having renounced the creation of a “communauté des biens” at the time of their marriage, and retained control over their own property, by opting for the separation of their goods. The apparent tendency for our small sample of wealthy women to remarry more than other women, which requires more study, suggests that the attraction of the rich widow in the marriage market outweighed any allure living independently may have held for those women able to do so.

Héloise seems to have been one of those women. She was educated, had married well, and when she contracted marriage with Hubert, their agreement was to remain separatist of property, unlike the contract Hubert and Alvina signed in 1862. This stipulation specifically retains her rights to hold and manage her property and any revenue she derives from such. And so begins Hubert’s next stage of life and business when he and Héloise married on November 13, 1886.


Sources

  • 1861 Census of Canada. Canada East (Quebec) Library and Archives Canada. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca
  • 1871 Census of Canada. Province: Quebec Library & Archives Canada. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca
  • 1881 census of Canada; Quebec, Library & Archives Canada. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca
  • A brief history of women’s rights in Canada. Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage
  • Bradbury, B. Surviving as a Widow in 19th-century Montreal. Urban History Review, https:// doi.org/10.7202/1017628ar
  • Fonds Cour Supérieure. Greffes de notaires; Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Montréal, Québec, Canada. http://www.banc.qc.ca
  • Gariepy, Edgar. photographe 1881-1956: Saint-Henri-de-Mascouche : le manoir des Le Gardeur de Repentigny ou manoir Pangman. La collection Gariépy à la Bibliothèque municipale de Montréal
  • Institut Généalogique Drouin; Montreal, Quebec, Canada. http://www.institutdrouin.com
  • Martel, Claude. Un Brin d’histoire. Journal la Revue; http://www.larevue.qc.ca
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