Dress Worn by La Bolduc

A Depression-era Quebec songstress elevated spirits with her silk finery and joyful tunes.

Written by Mathieu Drouin

Posted October 5, 2022

Considered Quebec’s first woman singer-songwriter, Mary Rosa Anna Travers, known by the stage name La Bolduc, brought laughter and hope to French Canadians during the Great Depression with joyful tunes — such as “Ça va venir, découragez-vous pas” (“Don’t worry, it will be all right”) — and with lyrics inspired by her humble beginnings.

Between 1840 and 1930, about 900,000 francophones left the country to look for work in the United States. By 1929, those who had stayed behind faced increased unemployment, falling exports, and a drop in the price of agricultural products. With charitable organizations unable to provide for the unemployed, the provincial and federal governments launched direct relief efforts and work camps, which had only a limited impact.

In the same way that La Bolduc succeeded in extricating herself from poverty to don this silk dress, Quebec eventually emerged from the Great Depression and adopted reforms crucial to modernizing the province.

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This object resides at the Musée de la Gaspésie.

This article originally appeared in Cinquante Merveilles de nos musées: les plus beaux trésors de la Francophonie Canadienne. The special interest publication was part of Projet Portage, a five-year initiative to connect history lovers in French and English Canada, generously supported by the Molson Foundation.

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