Brandeau, Esther

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BRANDEAU, ESTHER (18th cent.), first Jewish immigrant to New France. Esther Brandeau was the daughter of David Brandeau, a Jewish trader in St. Esprit, near Bayonne, France. She arrived at Quebec City in September 1738 on the ship Saint-Michel, disguised as a boy, Jacques La Farge. When her gender was discovered the Intendant of New France ordered her arrested and held under surveillance at the Quebec hospital. Brandeau had apparently lived as a Christian boy, mainly employed in the shipping trade, for five years before arriving in Quebec City. Since it was impossible for a Jew to remain in New France, strenuous efforts were made for more than a year to convert her but she refused to abandon her religion. She was finally deported to France with the cost of her return passage paid for by Louis xv. In a letter dated January 25, 1740 the King wrote, "[the] Intendant of Canada, upon my orders sent the Jewish girl, Esther Brandeau, back to France on the ship, La Comte de Matignon, of New Rochelle, the owner of the ship, Sieur La Pointe, applied to me for reimbursement of the passage money…." After her deportation in 1739 nothing further is known about her.


B.G. Sack, History of the Jews in Canada, trans. Ralph Novek, 2 vols. (1965), 1: 6–9; E. Taitz, S. Henry, and C. Tallan, "Esther Brandeau," in: The jps Guide to Jewish Women, 600 b.c.e.–1900 c.e. (2003), 244.

[Cheryl Tallan (2nd ed.)]