History of Scientific Women

Catherine Jérémie was a midwife and botanist in New France. Catherine Jérémie was baptized in Champlain, Quebec on September 22, 1664 to Jeanne Pelletier and trader Noël Jérémie. She was the eldest of 11 siblings.

Jérémie married Jacques Aubuchon in Champlain, Quebec, on January 28, 1681, and together they had one daughter. On November 3, 1688, Jérémie married Michel LePailleur in Batiscan, Quebec. Jérémie and LePailleur together had 10 or 11 children.

In 1702 Jérémie settled in Montreal with husband Michel LePailleur where she pursued her studies and research in botany and midwifery. She was particularly interested in the medicinal practices of the Indigenous populations of Canada. She studied these medicinal plant uses and further discovered many remedies. She applied these findings to her knowledge of women's bodily experiences.

Jérémie was one of the earliest botanists in Canada and the first female naturalist known to date. She was known in the French scientific world for providing the French naturalist scientists with detailed reports of the plants they collected and sent their collections to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris (see pictures above), encouraged by the French Académie des Sciences in order to collect Canada's flora and fauna. Colony intendant Gilles Hocquart noted her practices as significant in his reports to France and these collections are now preserved at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Overall, Jérémie made a large contribution to natural science in New France.

Jérémie's knowledge of herbal plants increased her reputation and practice as a midwife, as she was able to apply these uses specifically to women's bodily experiences such as abortion, pregnancy and birth. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, most midwives engaged in a private practice, were less costly than doctors, and stayed at their client's homes for longer periods of time while helping with household chores. Jérémie used the interventionist approach to healthcare, which contradicted the laissez-faire approach of many English scholars. She soon became known as a famed midwife and was referred to as "la magicienne de ma vie au Quebec" (the magician of my life in Quebec) by one of her clients.

Source: Wikipedia