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Filles à la Cassette


Filles à la Cassette

Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

Embarkment of the Casket girls. Unidentified

The filles à la cassette (translated in English as “casket girls”) is the name given to French girls who migrated to Louisiana in 1728 to marry colonists already living in Louisiana.  Although many women of questionable reputation, including prostitutes and criminals, were forced to traverse the Atlantic to marry French colonists, the filles à la cassette were from good families with upstanding reputations.  As early as the eighteenth century, the French colonists were concerned with starting families so that French Louisiana could flourish.  The filles à la cassette were, therefore, carefully selected for their reputations, age, and pure values so that they could contribute positively to the quality of the community.  They were young women usually sixteen or younger who stayed in the Ursuline Convent until they were married to the young men with similar reputations. They are called filles à la cassette for the little cassette they each carried overseas from France, which contained their belongings.

The Ursuline Convent

The Ursuline Convent was the destination point for these girls. The filles à la cassette were sheltered, educated, and kept in this house until married.  The education for the girls ranged from languages to cooking and all other homemaking skills.  Men with good incomes and who also had commendable reputations were invited to visit and meet the girls at the convent during the day. The convent was built in 1727 for the Sisters of Ursula who arrived in New Orleans just one year before these “casket girls.”  It is located on 1100 Chartres Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter.