Changing History Behind the Scenes: Misjudged Innocence

A surreal picture of a woman sitting on a pile of books.

As explained in the previous chapter, women could indirectly influence political decisions by impressing their opinions on their husbands and fathers. However, this was not all they did to effect change in a society where men had almost all the political power. They also, sometimes, overheard important, secret information and later leaked it. An alleged example of this took place during Pontiac’s Rebellion of 1763, when the future of Canada may have been decided by a young French woman relaying confidential information to the British.

Misjudged innocence

According to some historical accounts, the young French woman who alone possibly changed history during Pontiac’s Rebellion was Angelique Cuillerier, the daughter of a French Pontiac confidant. Believed to be innocent and harmless, young Cuillerier, allegedly, was allowed to hang around during meetings Pontiac had with her father. Here, it is said, she overheard Pontiac talk about how his First Nations warriors planned a surprise attack on a British garrison at Fort Detroit. Cuillerier, the fiancée of a British military commander, then supposedly told her future husband about the plans, essentially alerting both Pontiac’s and her father’s enemies to the danger.

When First Nations warriors eventually got ready to strike Fort Detroit, in line with the assumption of leaked information, the British were on guard and the attack was aborted. A while after, Pontiac lost his great momentum and the opportunity for First Nations to oust the British from the Great Lakes region disappeared. Wrongly presuming that women were always innocent, in other words, may have cost Pontiac the victory, just like it has cost other men power and influence throughout history.