The first Jew known to set foot on Canadian soil, Esther Brandeau disguised herself as a boy to gain freedom and independence. Brandeau was sent by her parents to live with relatives in Amsterdam, but after she was shipwrecked, she disguised herself as a Christian boy to enjoy an independent life, working as a ship boy, a domestic servant, and an errand boy for various employers before sailing to Quebec in 1738 under the name Jaques La Fargue. When her real identity was discovered, Brandeau was arrested, since Canadian law barred Jews from entering the country and Brandeau refused to convert to Catholicism. After a year of administrative wrangling with both French and Canadian authorities, the king of France ordered Gilles Hocquart, the intendant of New France, to take charge of Brandeau and she was deported, disappearing from the historical record.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Esther Brandeau." (Viewed on December 3, 2016) <https://jwa.org/people/brandeau-esther>.