Filles à la Cassette
The filles à la cassette (translated in English as “casket girls”) is the name given to French girls brought to Louisiana beginning in 1721 to marry colonists already living in the colony.
The filles à la cassette (translated in English as “casket girls”) is the name given to French girls who migrated to Louisiana to marry colonists already living in the colony. The first group of more than eighty filles à la cassette arrived in Biloxi in 1721 aboard La Baleine. They were accompanied by three gray nuns (soeurs grises) from Paris’s La Salpêtrière, a charity hospital. Although some women of questionable reputation, including accused prostitutes and criminals, were forced to traverse the Atlantic to marry French colonists, the filles à la cassette were generally either orphaned girls who volunteered to leave France, as was the case of those who arrived in 1721, or young women from good families.
As early as the first decade of the eighteenth century, French administrators and colonists understood that the presence of families would be needed for Louisiana to flourish. The filles à la cassette were, therefore, carefully selected, for their reputations, age, and values so that they could contribute positively to the quality of the community. They are called filles à la cassette for the trunk each young woman carried overseas from France, which contained her belongings.