The Hilda Neatby Prize French Article
Benoît Grenier. “Réflexion sur le pouvoir féminin au Canada sous le Régime français: Le cas de la “seigneuresse” Marie-Catherine Peuvret (1667-1739)”. Histoire Sociale/Social History, 42, no 84 (2009) 299-326.
Benoît Grenier’s article is a stimulating contribution to the debates on female power in colonial societies. It subtly traces how patriarchal society oversaw women’s autonomy by studying a group of widows and “seigneuresses” and by focusing on the specific and exceptional case of Marie-Catherine Peuvret. The author shows that in New France, feminine power depends mostly on special circumstances, such as the age of the widow and the situation of male heirs. In addition, he suggests that women who retain control of their seigneurial land are distinguished by their strength of character and seemed to be exposed to challenge by their tenants and neighbors males. With this article, Benoît Grenier stimulates and enhances the historical debate on privileged women in New France. He also encourages historians to simultaneously consider the social constraints, opportunities for individual autonomy and possible reactions towards an unfamiliar authority figure in their understanding of power, its exercise and its symbolism.