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Lifestyles of Early Acadian Women

Updated on September 24, 2017
Virginia Allain profile image

History fascinates Virginia and she loves to travel to historic places. Many of these are places her ancestors lived in earlier times.

A docent reenacts the activities of an Acadian woman of the 1700s in New Brunswick, Canada.
A docent reenacts the activities of an Acadian woman of the 1700s in New Brunswick, Canada. | Source

What Was Life Like for Acadian Women in the 1700s and 1800s in Canada?

When you visit the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in Canada, there are museums, historic sites, and even a full historic village showing the lives of the early Acadians. It particularly interested me to see how the women lives were during these times.

In the 1600s and 1700s, immigrants from France settled in Nova Scotia. Settling a new land was hard but by the mid-1700s they had churches, schools, and prosperous communities. During the time of the French and Indian War (1750s), the British deported the Acadians but some escaped to start their lives over in New Brunswick.

There's a Historic Acadian Village (Village Historique Acadien) in New Brunswick that shows the life and culture of these French-speaking people. It's a great place to visit to learn how they lived at different periods of time.

Women's Clothing of the Early Acadians

Source

When you visit the Acadian Historic Village in New Brunswick, people dressed in traditional clothing suitable for the period greet you in the homes and about the village.

Here you'll see examples of the attire that women wore in the 1700s and 1800s in the Acadian communities.

The women of the household would weave the cloth and sew the clothing for the whole family. You'll note in the photo above that she is knitting. She's wearing a very simple cap.
The women of the household would weave the cloth and sew the clothing for the whole family. You'll note in the photo above that she is knitting. She's wearing a very simple cap. | Source

Wool and Flax Could be Spun into Fiber for Weaving

Stripes seem to be popular for the gathered, long skirts. This woman wear a patterned cap that ties under her chin, instead of the plain white head covering. Her apron is a rough weave, so possibly flax or linen. She is spinning fiber.
Stripes seem to be popular for the gathered, long skirts. This woman wear a patterned cap that ties under her chin, instead of the plain white head covering. Her apron is a rough weave, so possibly flax or linen. She is spinning fiber. | Source
The same docent explains to visitors how they make the fabric. In the basket behind her, you see the flax waiting to be made into fiber for weaving.
The same docent explains to visitors how they make the fabric. In the basket behind her, you see the flax waiting to be made into fiber for weaving. | Source

Video Explaining the Acadian Spinning Wheel

Here you see the spinning wheel in use at the Acadian museum in Louisiana where the Acadians are known as Cajuns.

The woman explains the techniques for making cloth, then weaving it into fabric. It takes many hours to create clothing in that era.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This loom with the spindle on top shows the work that goes into making patterned fabric.
This loom with the spindle on top shows the work that goes into making patterned fabric.
This loom with the spindle on top shows the work that goes into making patterned fabric. | Source
At the general store, Acadians could buy thread of different colors and patterned cotton fabric. Many Acadians lived in isolated communities with limited access to goods like these.
At the general store, Acadians could buy thread of different colors and patterned cotton fabric. Many Acadians lived in isolated communities with limited access to goods like these. | Source
Here's a woman is making lace. You can see examples of it on the cuffs of her dress. This dress appears more formal than that worn by women in the more humble homes. The dress fabric is probably store-bought.
Here's a woman is making lace. You can see examples of it on the cuffs of her dress. This dress appears more formal than that worn by women in the more humble homes. The dress fabric is probably store-bought. | Source

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Stoves and Ovens of the Early Acadians

Outdoor Bread Oven at the Acadian Village

Source

Stoves and Ovens of the Early Acadians

This outdoor oven served for baking the bread needed for large families. By being separate from the house, it minimized the risk of fires and wouldn't heat up the house in summer. I don't know if these were used by a whole community or if each family had their own oven.

You can see a step-by-step reconstruction of an Acadian bread oven on the P.E.I. Heritage Buildings site.

This kitchen below is in the Acadian Historic Village in New Brunswick, Canada, and it featured a basic cast-iron stove with a stone base and a metal stovepipe. Note the supply of wood ready for use in the stove.

The table is set for the family dinner. I'm wondering if the cabinet next to the woodpile is an old icebox or just a cupboard.

The photo shows a cast iron stove from the Acadian Historic Village in New Brunswick. You can read more about old stoves on the P.E.I. Heritage site.

Source

The next photo shows a more advanced stove. I found a site that gives Acadian words for tools and it mentions a "double-decker stove [Poêle à deux ponts]: Cast iron stove with a closed cooking surface which could also be used as an oven." That sounds very much like the photo I took below.

You can see this stove at the Acadian Village in New Brunswick.
You can see this stove at the Acadian Village in New Brunswick. | Source

© 2017 Virginia Allain

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