M16934 | Container

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Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Huron-Wendat
1855, 19th century
Birchbark, glazed cotton, moosehair, cotton thread, dyes
4.6 x 9.9 x 17.8 cm
Gift of Miss Blackader
© McCord Museum
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Keys to History

The use of moosehair to decorate objects goes back to the precontact era; however, the art of embroidery with moosehair really took off after contact with Europeans and the fusion of Aboriginal techniques and knowledge with the know-how of the Ursuline nuns. In 1714, according to archival sources, Mother St-Joseph, an Ursuline from Trois-Rivières, taught the art of embroidery on birchbark. Another Ursuline nun also made a major contribution: Mother Sainte-Marie-Madeleine (Anne Du Bos), who was born in Sillery in 1678 to a French father and a Huron-Wendat mother. According to her 1734 obituary, she devoted the final years of her life to teaching embroidery, in particular, embroidery with moosehair, which by 1720, was widely recognized as a refined and elegant form of needlework.

  • What

    Birchbark containers embroidered with moosehair were one of the specialties of Huron-Wendat women. This type of work was also done in convents, where young nuns learned the art of moosehair embroidery.

  • Where

    Huron-Wendat women from Wendake and the Ursuline sisters of Quebec City practised the art of embroidery with moosehair, using it to decorate pretty birchbark containers and other objects.

  • When

    Archival documents reveal that the art of embroidery on birchbark was practised from the early 18th century.

  • Who

    It was probably a metis Ursuline nun named Mother Sainte-Marie-Madeleine who introduced embroidery with moosehair to the Ursulines. This type of embroidery became very popular in the 19th century thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of Marguerite "Lawinonkié" Vincent. She transformed this art into a craft industry that provided work for the women of Wendake.