Goals and Objectives--Grades 6 - 8
Voices and Choices--Nicholas Chassin
Note: It is a good idea to print
Level Two for easy reference.
Nicholas Chassin is a successful government
official who is eager to find a wife. Because of the scarcity of
women in the colonies, Nicholas' choices are limited. He must
decide whether to wait for the Company of the Indies to send women
over from Paris, to find a widow who will marry him, or to marry
Agnes, the daughter of an Indian chief and a French
These themes can be explored with either a social studies or
language arts curriculum. Use these themes to tie in other
resources to your class discussion, i.e., other books, other
cultures, students' own lives.
- French holdings in North America: What was the extent of
French power in the New World?
- The importance of women on the French Frontier.
- A look at marriage as an economic relationship.
These questions which come at the end of each story, minus "the
answer", can be used to start class discussions or be assigned as
In what ways did Nicholas Chassin represent royal authority in
Nicholas Chassin worked for the Company of the Indies. The
Company had been granted a monopoly over Illinois by the French
royal government. Company men were representatives of the French
royal government in the colonies. As royal storekeeper, Nicholas
assisted with trade between the colonies and New Orleans, the
capitol of French Louisiana and the Illinois country.
Why did Nicholas need a wife?
In a letter to his friend, Father Bobe, Nicholas wrote that he
needed a wife in order to establish a home. Women were responsible
for managing the household, raising the children, and sharing in
the work of running the family farm (see information behind picture
on page 3).
Why does Nicholas refer to his future wife as a "certain
article of furniture"?
Although women were integral to the success of the frontier
community, they were considered inferior to men. In Nicholas' mind,
women were so synonomous with the running of a household that they
were as essential as furniture. Ask your students to consider the
tone of Nicholas' letter. Is he joking with Father Bobe? Does he
feel awkward refering to such a personal decision as marriage? Is
he afraid of the comittment of marriage?
How were women viewed in the 1700s?
Women were valuable to the survival of frontier communities. A
man knew that his success depended upon having a wife who could
share the work of running a household and farm. However, women were
given no political power and were dependent on a husband to define
their role in society (see information behind picture on page
What kind of power did women hold in French colonial society?
Do you think their position was affected by the scarcity of women
in the colonies?
The French laws governing inheritance allowed a woman an equal
share in her husband's estate. Because of the scarcity of women on
the frontier and the wealth they could bring to a marriage, widows
were in demand as brides. Remarriage brought a widow saftey and
economic stability. Life was so difficult on the frontier that men
and women married and died very young. A healthy woman could
outlive two to three husbands in her lifetime (see information
behind picture on page 5).
In what ways was marriage an economic agreement between a man
and a woman?
At the time of marriage, men and women signed an official
contract that set the economic terms of the marriage. The signing
of the marriage contract took place before the religious ceremony,
illustrating that marriage was considered an economic agreement
first and foremost.
Agnes was Catholic, why do you think that was important to
Agnes' acceptance of the Catholic faith revealed to what extent
she had become assimilated into the French community. As the wife
of the royal storekeeper, she would have been expected to attend
mass with him on Sundays and all church-related activities.
These are suggested classroom activities and student projects
that you may want to use with your students or as models to create
1. Social Studies Report
Write a report comparing the roles of men and women on the French
frontier. How was power divided between them?
2. Writing A Dialogue
Imagine the dialogue that took place between Nicholas Chassin and
Michel Philippe, father of Agnes, when Nicholas asked for her hand
- Write a dialogue or a story about this event
- Write a dialogue between Agnes and her mother after Nicholas
has proposed to Agnes. What might her fears be? Her hopes?
3. Preparing a Skit
In groups of four, develop a skit based on your dialogues
between Agnes and her mother and between Philippe and Nicholas.
In preparation for presenting your skit to the class, you might
want to paint a backdrop, such as an interior setting of a French
- For ideas on what to include in your interior setting
refer to Objects
© Illinois State Museum