In 1720, 88 young French women ages 12 to 30 volunteered to travel to the Louisiana colony to become brides for the soldiers, sailors and settlers in Biloxi. In August, they left the Salpetriere General Hospital in Paris on board the ship La Baleine and arrived in what is now the Mississippi Gulf Coast in January 1721. The women were labeled “casket girls” because of the small wooden chests they carried containing clothes for their voyage. In the year of their arrival, 60 of the women were married in Biloxi.
Historian and genealogist Randall Ladnier has researched these pioneering women and written their history in a new book, “The Brides of La Baleine.” From these marriages are many of today’s families living in Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast.
“The great majority of descendants from these girls possess surnames found mostly in South Louisiana,” Ladnier wrote me by email. “For example, Pierre Prudhomme married one of the brides and, although the couple only had four children, his tree of descendants now contains more than 700 different surnames. I think it would be difficult to come up with a South Louisiana surname which is not included in my book.”
In addition to information about the women raised at the Salpetriere General Hospital, which Ladnier calls “a combination of a convent and a concentration camp,” he details their backgrounds, their journey and their offsprings, including a handy genealogical index in the back.
Ladnier and I met when he was passing through Lafayette and he is passionate about both his book and the subject matter, insisting that these women who helped populate the Louisiana colony are grossly overlooked and misrepresented. He hopes proceeds from the book, plus grants and donations, will help start either a museum or a monument in their honor.
History lovers and genealogists alike may enjoy this book. Learn more at Ladnier’s website, www.labaleinebrides.org. To purchase the book for $25 or download the PDF for $15, visit http://www.labaleinebrides.org/shop/
Louise Penny and Trudy Nan Boyce are the recipients of the 2017 Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction, sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association of New Orleans. The prizes honoring two women writers will be presented Sept. 8 at The Academy of the Sacred Heart/Nims Fine Arts Center, 4301 St. Charles Ave. in New Orleans. The ticketed event is open to the public. Winners receive both $2,500 and a trip to New Orleans to accept their prize. The Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction was created in 2012 to honor the memory of Diana Pinckley, a crime fiction columnist for The New Orleans Times-Picayune and her passion for mysteries.
Five local authors or criminal activity experts will make presentations at the third annual Jefferson Parish Library Mystery Readers/Writers Literary Festival on Saturday at the East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave. in Metairie. The keynote speaker will be New York Times bestselling author Erica Spindler, who will open the event at 9:30 a.m. Spindler’s novel “Bone Cold” won the Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence and she received a Kiss of Death Award for her novels “Forbidden Fruit” and “Dead Run.” Spindler is a three-time RITA Award finalist and Publishers Weekly awarded the audio version of her novel “Shocking Pink” a Listen Up Award, naming it one of the best audio mystery books of 1998. The event geared toward readers and writers of mysteries is free and open to the public, no registration necessary.
Other presentations include:
10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m., “The Wheels of Justice” with Sal Perricone, a member of law enforcement for nearly 40 years and author of the Crescent Criminality series.
Noon to 1:15 p.m., “High Speed Car Chases” with Jeff Blue, a former police officer and now an attorney, who will discuss the reality of police pursuits based on his personal experiences.
2 p.m.-3:15 p.m., “Hard Roll, A Paramedic’s Perspective of Life and Death in New Orleans” with Jon McCarty, an emergency medic and co-creator of the New Orleans EMS Field Training Officer program.
3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m., “Master Class for Authors – Pacing for the Thriller or Mystery” with Bill Loehfelm, author of the critically acclaimed Devil series about New Orleans Police Department rookie Maureen Coughlin. He is also the author of the stand-alone novels, “Fresh Kills” and “Bloodroot,” set in his hometown of Staten Island.
The JPL Mystery Writers/Readers Festival is supported by the New Orleans chapter of Sisters in Crime and the Southern Louisiana Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. For more information, contact Chris Smith, manager of Adult Programming for the library, at (504) 889-8143 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at email@example.com.