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Léontine Poutré and Hercule Martin Fonds (P748)

Letter written by Léontine Poutré to Hercule Martin, November 30, 1924. Gift of Marthe and Patrick McDonald, Léontine Poutré and Hercule Martin Fonds P748, M2012.58.1.1 © McCord Museum

Love and marriage in Quebec, circa 1920

"I would like to ask you something... but I hesitate. Do you like women with short hair? I know that men don't generally like it. What is your unbiased opinion? I still wear my hair the old-fashioned way, but I'm very tempted to try the new. Chatting with someone is always pleasant, don't you agree? I do hope I can look forward to reading your next letter soon."

At a time when many Quebec women were experiencing a new freedom, Léontine Poutré still hesitated to call herself a "modern" woman.

Although it had barely been a month since Léontine (age 30) and Hercule (age 22) had begun corresponding, the tone of their letters was already friendly and flirtatious. For just over a year, the young woman from Chambly and the young man from Montreal would write each other more than 150 letters, sharing their daily lives, their interests, their joys and their struggles, thus creating a tender, intimate portrayal of Quebec customs in the 1920s. Initially reserved, almost cautious (especially him, still so young), they gradually allowed expressions of love to seep into their writing. Many people will recognize themselves in this portrait of two young sweethearts working to reconcile their often differing temperaments, routines and visions of the world, in a Quebec on the threshold of modernity.

The wedding of Hercule and Léontine with the long hair took place in early 1926.


P748 Léontine Poutré and Hercule Martin Fonds. - 1847-1982. - 25 cm of textual records. - 12 iconographic documents.

Biographical Sketch

Léontine Poutré (1884-1957) grew up in Chambly, where her parents ran a small hotel, and was educated by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame. Joseph Hercule Martin (1892-1982), from Montreal, worked as a typesetter for the newspaper La Presse.

After spending an hour with her at the home of friends in Chambly in the fall of 1924, Hercule Martin asked Léontine Poutré if she would agree to correspond with him. She hastened to answer in the affirmative: "My dear sir, I shall read and reread your letters with pleasure." This relationship was initiated when Hercule was 22 years old and Léontine, the older of two, had recently turned 30. Their correspondence, which began with weekly letters and evolved into nearly daily missives, lasted for over a year and ended with their wedding. They had one daughter, Françoise Martin (1927-1999), who did not have any children.

Scope and Content

This fonds documents the correspondence between two young single people, Léontine Poutré (age 30) and Hercule Martin (age 22), between 1924 and 1926. This extensive collection is an important historic record of the everyday lives and customs of Quebecers living in the 1920s. These love letters reveal the social climate of the time through courtship conventions, how routines in the city and differed from those in the country, the lives of young people, their daily activities, hopes and fears. Keenly interested in reading, the theatre and hockey, Hercule Martin sprinkles his letters with details about Montreal culture and sports. The correspondence also illustrates how love grew between the two writers, albeit subtly and reservedly, in accordance with the values of Quebec's conservative religious society.

The couple writes beautifully and Léontine's stationery is adorned with various motifs. The particular value of this fonds is that the correspondence is complete, from the couple's first meeting to their wedding. There are also rough drafts of Léontine's letters, where she lets herself indulge in more daydreaming and romance.
Furthermore, there are collections of notes on reading and poetry written by the two sweethearts long before they met, which helps us get to know them better. There are various legal documents, like baptismal, marriage and death certificates for the Martin family (Joseph Hercule, Léontine and their daughter Françoise), as well as several other genealogical documents.

Photographs of Léontine Poutré and Hercule Martin complete the fonds. They depict the two of them during the time of their correspondence as well as much later in life. For example, there is a memorial card for Léontine and a portrait of widower Hercule in a bateau-mouche on the Seine.

Physical condition: The binding on one of the collections of notes and poetry has disintegrated.
Language: The documents are in French.
General note: Columnist Pierre Foglia heard about this collection from Marthe Gagnon and Patrick McDonald and wrote an article published in La Presse on December 17, 2005, entitled: "Demain, je vais tout quitter pour vous" (Tomorrow, I will leave everything for you).


The fonds is divided into the following series and files:

  • P748/A Correspondence
    • P748/A,1 Correspondence - November 1924. - November 12, 1924-November 30, 1924. - 0.5 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents

    • Scope and Content: This file contains the first letters exchanged between Léontine Poutré and Hercule Martin, a correspondence that was initiated by the latter in November 1924.

      The letters discuss a variety of topics, from family to Hercule's interest in the theatre. There are also rough drafts of Léontine Poutré's letters.

    • Language: The documents are in French.

    • P748/A,2 Correspondence - December 1924. - December 2, 1924-December 30, 1924. - 2 cm of textual documents.
      Digitized documents

    • Scope and Content: This file documents the early days of the epistolary relationship between Léontine Poutré and Hercule Martin, as well as the daily lives and interests of the two young people (such as women's fashion and hockey).

      It contains both the actual correspondence and rough drafts of Léontine Poutré's letters.

    • Language: The document is in French and English, but primarily in French.

    • P748/A,3 Correspondence - January 1925. - January 1, 1925-January 29, 1925. - 2 cm of textual documents.
      Digitized documents

    • Scope and Content: This file documents the beginning of the epistolary relationship between Léontine Poutré and Hercule Martin, the daily lives and interests of the two young people, as well as the blossoming of their romance (conveyed in expressions such as "my dear friend" and passages describing Léontine's sadness at living so far away from Hercule).

      It contains both the actual correspondence and rough drafts of Léontine Poutré's letters.

    • Language: The document is in French.

    • P748/A,13 Correspondence - November 1925. - November 3, 1925-November 26, 1925. - 1.5 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents

    • Scope and Content: This file contains letters exchanged between Léontine Poutré and Hercule Martin. It chronicles their growing romantic relationship one year after their first meeting, as well as their daily activities.

      It includes the actual correspondence, rough drafts of Léontine Poutré's letters, and three postcards depicting Saint-François-du-Lac, the Bank of Hochelaga and Chambly.

    • Language: The documents are in French and English, but primarily in French.

    • P748/A,14 Correspondence - December 1925. - December 1, 1925-December 31, 1925. - 1.5 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents

    • Scope and Content: This file documents the letters exchanged between Léontine Poutré and Hercule Martin, their growing romantic relationship a little over a year after their first meeting, and their daily activities and hopes. Léontine's desire to marry Hercule is clearly expressed in passages such as "I am so happy about this dream for the future [...], you know all the many ways I care about you... this small heart is like a mousetrap, once the trap is closed, one cannot get out."

      It contains the actual correspondence, rough drafts of Léontine Poutré's letters, three postcards, a greeting card and an invitation to a concert.

    • Language: The documents are in French and English, but primarily in French.

    • P748/A,15 Correspondence - January 1926. - January 4, 1926-January 28, 1926. - 1 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents

    • Scope and Content: This file documents the letters exchanged between Léontine Poutré and Hercule Martin in the weeks before their wedding.
      It contains the actual correspondence, rough drafts of Léontine Poutré's letters, and two postcards.

    • Language: The documents are in French and English, but primarily in French.

  • P748/B Collections of Notes and Poetry

  • P748/C Legal Documents
    • M2012.58.1.2 Marriage contract between Mr. Joseph Hercule Martin and Miss Marie Léontine Poutré. - January 26, 1926. - 1 textual record ; 35 x 22 cm.
      Digitized document

    • Scope and Content: This notarized contract, signed in Montreal in the presence of Maître Eugène Poirier, documents the marital union of Léontine Poutré and Hercule Martin and explains its main legal aspects.

    • Language: The document is in French.

  • P748/D Genealogical Notes

  • P748/E Photographs

 

Last update: August 30, 2017