Book Reviews

Interview with Aimie K. Runyan

As part of the Promised to the Crown book tour I got to interview Aimie about the history behind promised to the crown.

Displaying 03_Aimie K. Runyan.jpegDisplaying 03_Aimie K. Runyan.jpegDisplaying 03_Aimie K. Runyan.jpegDisplaying 03_Aimie K. Runyan.jpegDisplaying 03_Aimie K. Runyan.jpegCaimieDisplaying 03_Aimie K. Runyan.jpegan you tell us what interested you about this area of history?

Aimie: I have always been drawn to the lesser known stories in history. Especially those that deal with the women whose contributions have gone unheralded. So many times in history, women did the heavy lifting of fashioning and improving the society in which they lived and the credit was either claimed by or given to men. I like to shine a light in those corners and bring those stories to the forefront. I was actually sitting in a Canadian Civilization class when my professor made a short lecture about the female volunteers who agreed to give up their lives and move to Canada as government-sponsored mail order brides. For the cost of their passage, a trunkful of household goods, and possibly a few coins, they abandoned all they knew in a fairly prosperous era in France with little promised in return apart from a cold climate and a throng of men who often needed wives to keep their hunting privileges in tact. When my professor mentioned the idea, I knew there was a story there. It took me ten years, a masters thesis, a marriage, and two children to be able to write the book of my heart.

I know you mentioned that the characters are not based on anyone but was there any historical women that you can tell us about that were an inspiration to you for this story?

St. Marie de l’Incarnation, St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, and Jeanne Mance were three amazing women without whom the French Canadian colony would not have succeeded nearly as well as it did. The three of them created a support system for young women starting their families and establishing households as well as a rudimentary system for medicine and healthcare. I can’t begin to wrap my head around the courage and resourcefulness of these remarkable women. I’d love to do a project with them at the forefront someday.

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You have also mentioned that there were rumors of these women being prostitutes. Can you tell us a bit about where you think these rumors came from and what evidence you found to refute them?

That was the popular belief for about 300 years. At first glance, it makes sense. Populate the colony and get rid of a social ill in one fell swoop. Sounds brilliant, right? But the likelihood that these women were prostitutes is remote. Among the reasons for this are:

  1. All women had to have a signed letter of good comportment from their parish priest. Few would have been willing to falsify an important document like this.
  2. The correspondence of well-respected members of Quebecois society who dealt closely with these women, specifically Marie de l’Incarnation and the Bishop Laval, speak of these young women being sweet natured, if a bit unrefined. No talk of licentious behavior at all. The offending young woman would have been immediately deported.
  3. Many of the women came from the Salpêtrière charity hospital, which did not house prostitutes in any great numbers until 15 years after the Kings Daughters program was ended.
  4. Few babies were born out of wedlock (1 out of 100 comapred to 1 in 4 in the American colonies. Those Puritans weren’t so ‘pure’ after all!). That number would have been much higher, we might expect, if these women were given to illicit relations.
  5. The most damning: Prostitutes were almost invariably infected with venereal diseases which rendered them sterile. The birth rate in Canada was very, very high. Simple logic shows these were healthy women.

The rumors were spread by an explorer and travel writer of sorts, the infamous Baron de la Hontan. He also claimed to have ‘discovered’ the Missouri River, but his maps indicate inaccuracies that led historians to believe most of his claims were fabricated or exaggerated. His works were, however, taken as fact for the better part of three centuries until historians like Silvio Dumas, Gustave Lanctôt, and Yves Landry set the record straight in the 20th century. Fun fact: King Louis DID in fact try to expel prostitutes to his colonies at one point. He sent them to the Caribbean some 20 years after the Kings Daughters program. Not much incentive to behave oneself, is it?

So this is book one in a series. Can you give us a bit of a teaser as to what we will see in book promised to the crown
2?

Book 2 follows the lives of three of the younger characters from Promised—Manon Lefebvre, Claudine Deschamps, and Gabrielle Giroux. They’re faced with the roles society has dealt them in the establishment of the new colony. None of them fit the mold especially well, but find comfort and strength in their uneasy friendship which grows to a
much stronger bond. These women are feisty, which leads to conflict, but learn quickly that they do much better against the hardships of colonial life in the company of allies and friends.

 

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