For the women of Acadia

Cassie Deveaux Cohoon

Jeanne Dugas of Acadia: A Historical Novel

It is unusual to find traces of an ‘ordinary’ woman in the history books. Fortunately, a bishop from Quebec making his rounds of Catholic parishes in the Atlantic Provinces in 1812 wrote a footnote in his Journal about an elderly woman he met in Cheticamp, Nova Scotia. Jeanne Dugas, he reported, had told him about her life’s travels and travails and all the places she and her family had fled to in order to escape capture and deportation at the hands of the British.

 

The list of places served as a guide to the author, who followed Jeanne and her family as they escaped the first fall of Fortress Louisbourg in 1745, the deportation from Nova Scotia in 1755, and the deportations from Île Royal and Île Saint-Jean in 1758 after the second fall of the Fortress. They then headed for the Miramichi and the Restigouche areas. Eventually captured by the British militia, they were taken to a prison on Georges Island in Halifax harbour. Released at the end of the Seven Years War, they resumed their travels, now in search of a home. They finally settled in Cheticamp in 1785, where Jeanne Dugas and her husband Pierre Bois were one of the founding couples of what has remained an Acadian village to this day. It is the story of an ordinary woman caught in circumstances over which she has no control and often does not even understand, of her courage and bravery, and her capacity to endure adversity. It is also the story of the immediate members of her family and of the larger Acadian family of that time, as seen through the eyes of Jeanne.

 

(The author is a descendant of Jeanne Dugas. Jeanne’s granddaughter, Eulalie, married Jean-Baptiste Deveau, a son of Augustin Deveau, one of the co-founders of Cheticamp and the author’s paternal ancestor.)

Availability:

Printed and eBook copies of Jeanne Dugas of Acadia are available through Cape Breton University Press, as well as:

Amazon.ca (print and Kindle editions)
Amazon.com (
print and Kindle editions)
Kobobooks (
ebook)
Chapters Indigo (
print) (eBook).

 

 

 

Published by Cape Breton University Press

ISBN 978-1-897009-71-0
EPUB 978-1-927492-34-5
MOBI 978-1-927492-35-2
160 pages

 

The story of Jeanne Dugas and her family is the story of Acadia. Her life (1731-1817) spans a long and important period in its history. A descendant of one of the three most important families in early Acadia, Jeanne Dugas was born in Louisbourg, where her father had fled in 1714 after the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht that put Acadia into British hands. But Jeanne remained at heart an Acadienne.

Excerpts from a review of Jeanne Dugas of Acadia:

 

“In her latest novel, Jeanne Dugas of Acadia, Cassie Deveaux Cohoon traces a fictionalized narration of the life of one of her own ancestors, Jeanne Dugas, a child born into a well-to-do life in Fortress Louisbourg, but whose life would begin to reshape itself in a downward spiral into escape and poverty against the background of wars fought between France and Britain….

 

What Cohoon accomplishes with her retelling of this oft-told history is the deeply personal story of one woman and her family, a story of loss and triumph, sadness and joy, that has as its subtext a tender and unspoken love story….

As the story unfolds, there is the emergence of a people in the process of defining themselves, a confusion of allegiances among the Acadians, as a war rages on, to understand their role in the war between France and England that has reached their shores again….

 

Jeanne Dugas of Acadia is a story for any reader who enjoys a well-told tale, and if during that reading you are made aware of some of Nova Scotia’s darkest corners, least proud moments, feel perhaps for the first time a twinge of shame, Cassie Cohoon has achieved much with her work.”

 

Frank Macdonald—The Inverness Oran, Cape Breton, NS

 

 

Comments from readers:

 

I just finished your wonderful book, Jeanne Dugas of Acadia, and I had to let you know how much I enjoyed it. It is very interesting and informative, and really woke me up with regard to the struggles of the Acadian people. . . . I want to thank you for opening my eyes to the reality of that time. Your descriptions of everyday life, especially from the women’s standpoint, were outstanding and comprehensive and make that time as real to me as my own life experiences. I cannot imagine being able to cope in such an environment, and I’m in awe of those Acadian women. Thanks again for your wonderful book.

G. M.

 

 

I have read your wonderful book, Jeanne Dugas of Acadia, and found it quite powerful. The story of the Acadian struggle for survival in the face of such persecution and betrayal is both heartbreaking and awe-inspiring. I feel honoured to be a descendant of Jeanne Dugas. . . And now I feel as though I have a fuller, deeper sense of what she and the Acadians during that time must have been experiencing. Your writing really makes the history come alive. . . I admire your skill in weaving together a complex set of facts into a story that resonates and lingers in the mind.

J. S.

 

 

You amaze me with your creativity to put up a cast of characters, giving them an identity that you maintain throughout the 200 plus pages, and construct dialogue, both interior and interpersonal, that fits them so well. You did a beautiful job of giving Martin all the characteristics of the M’i’kmaq people who did so much to help the Acadians during their very first years, and of course letting Jeanne personify the Acadian people. . . Overall I have a better understanding of what our people endured since the expulsion, not that I did not have some knowledge before, but you gave it flesh and blood, and that takes it out of the world of history and brings it into the world of living breathing people.

L. P.

 

 

Je viens de terminer la lecture du volume intitulé “Jeanne Dugas of Acadia”. Le récit est palpitant, concret, intéressant de la première à la dernière page. Le fait que l’héroine ait été exilée sans être déportée est particulièrement intéressant. De plus, les pas de celle-ci et de sa famille croissent ceux de mes ancêtres et me renseignent sur eux. .. . Je vous écris donc afin de vous informer de mon appréciation pour votre ouvrage.

A. M.

 

 

I found your weaving of history and fiction together just incredible and such a great way to bring the reader into an everyday reality that is hard for us to imagine now. . . . The history of the Acadians was vaguely known to me but this has made me so conscious of the incredible hardships they lived through constantly imposed displacements and forced violent separations. The uncertainties in their everyday lives apart from the ‘natural’ uncertainties lived by everyone during those times is just unimaginable. Well, not quite, your way of writing about it by focusing on Jeanne and her family, makes it imaginable.

M. M.

 

 

 

 

Je viens de terminer la lecture de votre beau livre “Jeanne Dugas of Acadia” et j’en ai apprécié chaque page. Vous y décrivez avec beaucoup d’authenticité et de réalisme la touchante et déchirante histoire des Acadiens du Grand Dérangement. Vos personnages sont vivants d’humanité et très émouvants. Au-delà de la base historique que j’ai trouvée solide, vous faites ressortir de façon admirable le rôle qu’ont joué les femmes de cette saga qui se sont efforcées de préserver, de protéger la vie au côté des hommes qui souvent, s’employaient à la compromettre et à la détruire parfois. Elles nous ont permis de survivre à ces années de crimes sordides contre l’humanité perpétrés contre nos ancêtres par les autorités anglaises de l’époque.

A. R .

 

 

I have just finished reading “Jeanne Dugas of Acadia” and felt moved to write you to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude. I often struggle with any meaningful comprehension of the long list of names, dates, places and events involved in researching my Acadian ancestry. Your novel, which did not specifically concern my own Dugas ancestors beyond the brief mention of the progenitor Abraham, has helped me to picture for the first time some of the circumstances which they endured and survived, and in spite of (or perhaps because of) which they thrived.

M. K.