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La Corriveau: A woman victim of Society?   by Isabelle Parent



Many people like to talk about La Corriveau as a legend of Quebec while others pretend to know the real facts concerning this story. This short text is a biography of the most tragic story of a woman originally from Quebec who was literally a victim of the society in 1763.

Marie-Josephte Corriveau, well-known as La Corriveau, was the daughter of Mr. Joseph Corriveau who was a farmer and Ms. Marie-Françoise Bolduc (profession unkown). La Corriveau was born on May 14th, 1733 in Saint-Vallier, in the region of Quebec, where her family was originally from. Up to 1763, the life of La Corriveau was apparently normal.

In her life, Marie-Josephte Corriveau had had two husbands. She got married to her first husband in November of 1749. His name was Charles Bouchard and he was a farmer, like her father. She had had three children with this man before Mr. Bouchard died in 1760. Then, La Corriveau got married for the second time in July 1760 to Mr. Louis Dodier, who was also a farmer. This man died a year later, in 1761.

The tragic story of Marie-Josephte Corriveau started with the sudden death of her first husband. From there, the neighbourhoods surrounding Saint-Vallier had already pointed their fingers at her, telling her that she was probably responsible and guilty for Charles Bouchard’s death. After the death of her second husband Louis Dodier, a year after her first husband had died of unknown circumstances, the military tribunal started hearing rumours accusing La Corriveau of being the only responsible for this death. At that time, the English military tribunal was meeting in a room of the Ursuline convent in Quebec. The tribunal consisted of 12 officers and one Lieutenant-Colonel, Roger Morris, who were initially blaming her father, Joseph Corriveau instead of La Corriveau herself. The first trial started on March 29th, 1763 and finished on April 9th, 1763 when he was finally condemned to death.

When Joseph Corriveau made a confession to the tribunal to plaid his case, he confessed and blamed his daughter, Marie-Josephte Corriveau, for Louis Dodier’s death in front of the officers and the lieutenant-Colonel. Moreover, “Joseph Corriveau even confessed that he was merely an accessory to his daughter’s crime” (Dickinson). After the trial, the authorities decided that Joseph Corriveau was innocent and therefore, gave him a certificate of innocence.

Having declared such things, La Corriveau had to face society and fight against her father’s words. On April 15th, 1763, La Corriveau declared to the British military tribunal that she had killed Louis Dodier during the night of the 26th and 27th of January 1763. She even said that she “killed her husband by hitting him on the head twice with an axe while he was sleeping” (Lacourcière, 1968).

Now, Joseph Corriveau was no more a problem for the tribunal, but La Corriveau surely was. On the same day, she was convicted to being hanged for murder. In fact, to save herself from this horrible penalty, La Corriveau mentionned the reasons for having acted this way; it was because of the bad treatments of her husband if he was guilty of this crime (Frigon,1996). On the other hand, rumours mentioned that if La Corriveau murdered her husband is was in order to save her dad from death penalty.

Since the Britain Embassy was governing Quebec at that time, the laws were theirs, and so, La Corriveau was hanged on the Buttes-à-Nepveu in order to honor the old Britain customs. The execution took place in April 1763 near the Plains of Abraham and her chained corpse was exposed in an iron cage in Pointe-Lévy until the end of May 1763. Apparently, governor James Murray authorized its removal. Around 1840, some discoveries were made and only some pieces of bones were found where La Corriveau’s body used to be hanged in the 17th century.

According to the Canadian Criminal Justice Association, which is responsible for Uncertain Justice, Canadian Women and Capital Punishment that occurred between 1754 and 1953, “Women who murder their husbands are treated most harshly, and probably with more venom and disgust than husbands who murder their wives” (Greenwood and Boissery, 2000). In the end, why would wives who killed their husband be dramatically be punished and judged for their act as opposed to husband who had killed their wives? Of course, since women did not have power and control on anything, men were the heads of the biggest jobs, and so, they were deciding laws and sanctions in their favour. The fact that women’s rights were restricted to domestic matters in the 17th century would certainly abolish their dreams of one day, having the right to speak, act, and live for themselves. The reason under this criminal act was, without a doubt, the result of mistreatments administered from La Corriveau’s husband. Where was the justice at the time to talk for women?

To conclude, La Corriveau has also inspired artists: the sculptor Alfred Laliberté made a remarkable bronze which is in the Musée du Québec portraying a haggard young woman bent under the weight of fatality and the cage in which she is imprisoned” (Lacourcière, 1968).



Works Cited

Dickinson, John A. La corriveau. The canadian encyclopedia. Historica-Dominion Institute.


Frigon, Sylvie. (1996). L’Homicide Conjugal Féminin, de Marie-Josephte Corriveau (1763) à Angélique Lyn Lavallée (1990) : Meurtre ou Légitime Défense?  29(2), p.11-27.               


 Greenwood, F. Murray and Boissery, Beverley. (2000). Uncertain justice, Canadian Women and Capital Punishment 1754 - 1953. Toronto: Dundurn press.

http://www. Ccja-acjp. Ca/en/cjcr/cjcr14.


Lacourcière, Luc. (1968). Le triple destin de Marie-Josephte Corriveau, Cahiers des Dix, XXXIII, 213–42 http://biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?id_nbr=1277




Witch Burning in Europe by Cynthia Stocks

Throughout history, patriarchal society has influenced the lives of many women and most of the time in a negative way. Women had to fight for their rights, fight for their credibility, and fight for their liberty. In Europe, from the 1500s to the 1800s, started one of the biggest battles for women: the witch-hunt. Women were accused of witchcraft, and they were sometimes tortured, hanged or burned at the stake. There were also some men, who were accused, but according to research, it was only a small percentage, around fifteen to twenty percent. It is important to know who was targeted and why, by whom they were targeted and finally what happened to the witches that were caught, to truly understand  the witch burning in Europe.

Most of the witches were women. According to Christina Larner, “the witch-hunts were sex-related if not sex-specific” (Larner, 3), 40,000 to 50,000 persons were killed and eighty to eighty-five percent were women (Briggs, 8). The women who were considered to be witches were women who were doing things against patriarchal values. Witches are women with knowledge and in that period of time, men portrayed women who possessed knowledge, as evil. In the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of the Witches), the bible of the witch hunters, “All wickedness,” write the authors,

             is but little to the wickedness of a woman. ... What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment

           , a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil nature,

            painted with fair colours. ... Women are by nature instruments of Satan -- they are by nature carnal, a structural defect

            rooted in the original creation. (Katz, 438-439) 

This book was printed in 1486. It became an instant success, and it had to be reprinted in at least 29 different editions between 1520 and 1669. People in Europe were influenced by those words, and they believed they were true. It is hard to say if all women were targeted and persecuted or if witches only represented a certain type of women. Although, in the limited data available there is a large majority of witches over 50. Katz argues that it is normal because “ these women, particularly older women who had never given birth and now were beyond giving birth, comprised the female group most difficult to assimilate, to comprehend, within the regulative late medieval social matrix, organized, as it was, around the family unit." (Katz,468-69) In other words, witches were mainly poor elderly women, unmarried or marginalized women who went against patriarchal values.

            The witch-hunts started with pope Innocent VIII, he was the one who published the bull, known as Summis desiderantes affectibus (desiring with the most profound anxiety). It basically said that Inquisitors had the power to correct, imprison and punish any person that was doing abominations and enormities, like heresy, incantations, spells, conjurations and others (Innes, 106). However, it is important to know that Catholics were not the only ones to punish witchcraft; Protestants and other religions were also against it.  Furthermore, what might is surprising is that men were not alone to denounce women. Most of the time, a woman was accusing another woman. It might have been to save her own life, or because of jealousy, but clearly  women were not helping each other out. Instead of standing against it, they participated in the witch-hunts.

            After they were denounced, women were arrested, put in prison and had a trial. This is pretty usual for prisoners; the big difference lies in the fact that those trials were not ordinary. Witches were previously asked if they were guilty or not, if they said not guilty, they were then tortured until they confessed. When they did confess, most of them were burned at the stake, to kill the evil in them. Their confessions were forced; therefore, they were not true most of the time; women confessed when the pain was too excruciating. According to the Malleus Maleficarum, “only a confession obtained through pain and torment could be assumed to come truly from the heart”(Innes, 108). It was also a way to scare people. Witches were burned in public places to show everyone  what was awaiting them if they were not conforming. It was a way for men to show their superiority and dominance.

            The witch burning in Europe has ended a long time ago, but the witch icon still lives. Mad or marginalized women have been called witches by the patriarchal society for a long time. Unfortunately, there will always be a witch-hunt as long as there is a patriarchal society. However, women are starting to help each other out, instead of participating in their own fall. They are fighting back.



Work Cited

Briggs, Robin. Witches and Neighbours: the Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft Oxford: Blackwell, 2002. Print.


Innes, Brian. The History of Torture. New York: St. Martin's, 1998. Print.


Katz, Steven T. The Holocaust in Historical Context. Vol. I. New York: Oxford Univ., 2008.  Print.


Larner, Christina. Enemies of God: the Witch-hunt in Scotland. Edinburgh: J. Donald, 2000. Print.





Obeah by Dave Jalbert

The Caribbean has been one of the most important places for the slaves’ trade. Originally, these isles were renowned for their imposing markets where slaves all around the world were gathered to be sold. It was mostly black people from these isles and from Africa who were sold. From these mixtures of many different nationalities, tribes, beliefs, were born many superstitious religions known as Voodoo, Ju-Ju, Obeah and Santeria, among others. All of these religions were similar in many ways, with some slight differences typical to their countries of origin. They all accept women as practitioners and spiritual guides, particularly Obeah, whose name means “magic.” In this religion, an Obeah-man is a sorcerer and an Obeah-woman is a witch.

            The origin of Obeah is Jamaica. But what is Obeah? It is not a real doctrine of faith to speak of, but an arrangement of superstitions, the most popular of which is the “Voodoo doll.” All these superstitions (Voodoo, Santeria, Obeah, Ju-Ju) are nearly identical to one another, following mostly the same set of beliefs. The main reason as to why there are some differences is because these superstitions were part of “oral tradition”: some of their aspects changed over time. One of the major characteristics of the Obeah is that its practitioners, the “leaders,” are men or women who have knowledge about plants, which can be used to cure as well as to poison. They were specialists in creating charms and idols, such as necklaces, bracers, dolls. Their purpose was to make people believe in their “powers,” exploiting other people's faith in the supernatural to gain followers, and therefore more power.

            An interesting aspect of the Obeah is that, contrarily to Europe, women were permitted to learn the practice of the Obeah. Like the men, they were spiritual leaders and they provided help to their communities. But, when their practice had been made known to the “White people,” they have been immediately referred to as witches, like men were referred to as sorcerers. Why did they think that Obeah-women were witches? During the XVI and XVII centuries, the knowledge of medicine was for the purpose of “Purging the evil (bad blood) from the person,” so physicians performed Bloodletting most of the time. Obeah-women did not use Bloodletting; they used their knowledge of plants and nature to create “potions” which could help to cure the ailment. During this time, everything that the Church did not understand was classified as heretic, like the knowledge of Obeah-men and Obeah-women.

            Finally, the major distinction of Obeah from the other similar religions is that Obeah involves the relationship between human and spirits, and these spirits are primarily ghosts that can be summoned to accomplish a particular task (such as protect or harm others, for example.). One of the famous practices is to catch a person's last breath in a bottle. They would later use the last breath to create charms associated to evil.

            Obeah-women were spiritual leaders for their people. They were as feared by some as they were loved by others. Being the ones who know much about nature, they were able to give life as much as to bring death, to bless persons as much as to curse them. They represented good and evil. “They played various roles simultaneously. They were healers and executioners; they were loved and feared, they were the guardian to all and demons to many.”






Works Cited

Long, Edward, History of Jamaica (London:1774), Vol. II.  






Witch-hunting Still Happens Today by Tania Fortier

Have you even heard about the Salem Witch Trial or the thousands of executions of women accused of witchcraft in Europe? This was a long time ago, but witch-hunting still happens today! In many parts of the world, women are still killed because they are accused of being witches. Before my research, I already knew it because I had worked for a women right’s organization in Burkina Faso, and I have family in Republic Democratic of Congo, but I had never expected witch-hunting to be such an endemic problem.

What is a Witch?

Throughout history, people have always believed in superior powers and too many women have been accused to communicate directly with the devil; men have been rarely accused of witchcraft. Witches “are a society's collective nightmare, a personification of its fears and forbidden desires. But in real life, those accused of being witches are not the terrifying creatures of nightmares” (Witch Hunts in Africa).

Sometimes, it is just “someone too beautiful, too clever, too successful” (Witch Hunts in Africa), but most of the time, those women are old, ugly, mysterious, apart from society, independent from men. They are considered to be mad and dangerous. In fact, each time something has gone wrong in their societies, such as illnesses and misfortune, they have been blamed, but all those problems could have been explained scientifically (Witch Hunts in Africa). This is why it no longer happens in the well-developed   Fortier parts of the world such as Europe where  people are highly educated, so those people look for other causes than sorcery when problems occur.              

It Still Happens in Africa

Therefore, in some countries where the education rate is really low, witch-hunting still happens such as in Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, RDC Congo, Tanzania, etc. “Across Africa, a war is being waged on women – but we are refusing to hear the screams. … As girls, they face having their genitalia sliced out with razors, to destroy their ‘filthy’ sexuality and keep them ‘pure’. As old women, they face being hacked to death as "witches", blamed for every virus and sickness blowing across the savannah” (Witch Hunt […]). In Africa, the women who are the most often targeted are old and they generally live alone. Therefore, they are the only women that are not men’s property and who take some decisions for themselves because they have some independency.

For these reasons, men accuse them of witchcraft. It gives them a reason to eliminate those unsubmissive women. “In one decade alone, (1991 to 2001), Tanzania had 20,000 persons accused of witchcraft, murdered by her citizenry--a disproportionate number of the suspected witches were female octogenarians” (Petraitis). Here is part of the speech of a man from Tanzania who believes in witches and kills them: “These women are frightening anomalies here: they have a flicker of financial independence denied to all other females. It has to be stopped. Of course witches must be killed!” (Witch Hunt […]). Moreover, before to be killed, women are frequently martyrized.


Since killing women is a daily event, the solution promoted by many organizations like Marapece, which is associated to HelpAge International, is to “show the local people the real causes of the evils they attribute to witchcraft” (Witch Hunt […]). For instance, in Tanzania, they attribute to witchcraft the fact that old women have red eyes. The fact is that they “spend a lifetime working over ovens fuelled by chopped wood. This causes acrid smoke to sting their eyes every day – and by the time they reached their fifties, their eyes are bloodshot-red” (Witch Hunt […]). This is one of the reasons why they kill old women massively.

The organization Marapece now provides “old women with adjusted ovens that blew the smoke not into their eyes, but up a funnel and out into the sky. Their eyes soon healed – and the villagers started to listen” (Witch Hunt […]).Therefore, knowledge is power and Marapece has decreased the number of murders related to witchcraft accusations by 90% in the villages where this NGO works (Tanzania).

Witches in Literature

Moreover, witches are also present in literature. In the book Wide Sargasso Sea, one of the main characters, Christophine, went to jail because she was convicted of witchcraft. This woman has many characteristics of a witch. First, she was independent because she did not want to marry someone, but she still had two children. Second, she was working to have financial independency and she had her own house. She said: “I thank my God. I keep my money. I don’t give it to no worthless man” (p. 68). Third, she practiced Obeah which looks like Voodoo. She was lucky to still be alive because, as mentioned earlier, women accused of witchcraft are usually tortured and killed. For instance, in the poem Spelling from Margaret Atwood, there are lines about witch persecution: “Ancestress: the burning witch/ her mouth covered by leather/ to strangle words.” This is a protestation against all the persecution done to women, including the accusing them of witchcraft to keep them quiet and under men’s control.

Finally, it is our duty as citizens of the world to speak up and tell what are the atrocities that are still done to women. By raising people’s awareness, more organizations will demystify old beliefs about witches, and more women will speak up for their rights.



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Figure 3: An Old Woman with Bloodshot-Red Eyes by Tania Fortier                                                                                                            Figure 1 :A Young Mon working over Smoke by Tania   Fortier                                                           Figure 2: A Mom Cooking over Smoke by Tania Fortier         



Petraitis, R. (2003). The Witch Killers of Africa. The Secular Web.  Retrieved from http://www.infidels.org

Rhys, J. (2001). Wide Sargasso Sea. London: Pengin Group. (Original work published  1966)

Atwood, M. (2003, January 3). Spelling. PoemHunter.com. Retrieved from http://www.poemhunter.com. (Original work published 1939)

Tanzania. (2011). HelpAge International. Retrieved from http://www.helpage.org 

Witch Hunt: Africa's Hidden War on Women. (2009, March 12). The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk

Witch Hunts in Africa. www.liberatedthinking.com. Retrieved from http://www.liberatedthinking.com




Hag or Crone as Symbol  by Guillaume Lauzière


Hag is defined in the Canadian Oxford dictionary as: an ugly old woman and a witch. It is often seen in fairy tales as a symbol of anger, jealousy, hate and as something to be feared. Hags and Crones were envious of prettier and younger women who were prettier and more attractive.

They could be seen as an occult form of a reclusive person since they were often cast away from the mainstream of the villages. They were usually alone with no one to care about because they were usually ugly. They had to perform some sort of mysterious profession to make a leaving, such as healer, herbalist, midwife, and to conduct burial preparation. Because of this, they could be seen as strong minded woman and also be seen as witch because of their knowledge over nature; therefore, they were seen as helpful or armful but they always seemed to be cast away.

A parallel could be made of the Hag and Crone and the mad women in the attic since they were seen in women writings. These women do not take care of their physical features and are strong minded. They do not fear to say what they think at any moment. Often feared, they are sometimes necessary to the development of a story giving an almost mystical aspect. They do so either to be armful or to help the protagonist. They are, most of the time, secondary characters.

There is no strong equivalence for men regarding the hag and crone. Only woman could occupy this function and have ‘’supernatural powers.’’ Men who were reclusive could live on their own without the need of occupying this occult aspect of society because they were living in a patriarchal society; ugly and lonely women had to sustain their living in some way and they found a mysterious way of doing it, which gave them power over the patriarchal society. They could live on their own but they had to do it with the judgment of others. The lack of youth and beauty was their only flaws, if only they were flaws…




Ramirez, Alma Iris. "Old Women, Hags And Crones." Open Writing. 28 Feb. 2009. Web. 22 Nov. 2011. <http://www.openwriting.com/archives/2009/02/old_women_hags_1.php>.

"Hag." Def. 1. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary. 2nd ed. Print.






©Martine Pelletier