Ahead Of Her Time

Ahead Of Her Time

Written on 06/02/2022

Madeline Marcotte was born in February 1780 at Mackinac Island, the daughter of a French-Canadian fur trader Jean Baptiste Marcotte and Marie Nekesh, an Ottawa Indian. Madeline was only 3 months old when her father died. She was raised among her mother’s people in an Ottawa village at the mouth of the Grand River near Grand Haven Michigan. She must have been a person of some status there, as her grandfather was Chief Kewinoquot. 

Marcotte was one of the most successful fur traders in Michigan, while it was still considered the Northwest Territory. At that time, fur trading was a difficult, dangerous and male-dominated occupation. Marcotte was one of the most prominent early businesswomen in the territory.

For the next 12 years, Madame LaFramboise, as she was known, wintered in the Grand River Valley collecting furs from trappers and then in the late spring she supervised the transportation of the furs to Mackinac Island. She owned a string of trading posts in the Valley and expanded her business throughout the western and northern portions of Michigan’s lower peninsula while raising her two children on her own.

At a time when an experienced fur trader earned about $1000 per year (which was a large sum at the time), La Framboise was earning $5000 to $10,000 per year. She was able to provide a Montreal education for her children, Josette and Joseph.

Having insured the education of her own children, Madame La Framboise recognized how important education was for the future of all the children on the island. Working with Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy, she used her money, property, and influence to make education available for all children, supporting the first school for Native American children on the island.

Her dedication to education secured for her a prominent place in Mackinac society. Now able not only to speak but also to write in four languages, she became a resource person for American and European travelers and officials who came through Mackinac. It was noted by many of them that she had a very clear sense of her own identity and importance.

La Framboise was also a philanthropist and her good deeds have had a lasting impact on Mackinac Island. She was very active at St. Anne’s Catholic Church and the parish register lists her as godmother for many baptisms and witness at many marriages. She was also a Sunday school teacher there.

When church leaders decided to move the church from its original location in 1827, La Framboise donated a large portion of her property next to her home as the new site. St. Anne’s Church still stands there today. In exchange for her gift of land, La Framboise asked to be buried beneath the altar of St. Anne’s at the end of her life.


"La Framboise, the half-Ottawa wife of a murdered French trapper, owned a string of trading posts in the Grand River Valley. Reputed to be no ordinary woman — probably for succeeding in an exclusively male trade in the "pays d'en haut" or savage country."

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