Who was Marianne Labuche Menard?

Modern day writers are not quite sure how her name is spelled; Mary Anne, Maryann, Mary Ann, or Marianne. Maybe that’s why her patients just called her “Aunt Mary Anne”.  (Photo right – from Mississippi River Sculpture Park)

The majority of the earliest settlers of PdC were illiterate and had to make a mark on documents after their names spelled by others. 

Those others did not necessarily know how the French names should be spelled, either spelled them phonetically or Anglicized them. However, if Mademoiselle LaBuche lived in a French community and had a French father, the likelihood is that, no matter how others wrote it later, the name would have been intended as "Marianne". There is no "Mary" in French. It is always "Marie". Marianne is the symbol of France.  (5)

James Lockwood first popularized the name of the woman as "Aunt Mary Ann". Lockwood's native language was English and he lived at Prairie, but most of the others there spoke French in the first part of the 19th Century. They wouldn't have said "aunt", either, but "tante".  (6)

“Aunt Mary Anne”was also noted as a “person of consequence” according to an 1856 pioneer writer who knew her in the nineteenth century(1).  Mary Ann Labuche was the first non-indigenous medical doctor to practice in Wisconsin (2).  Mary Ann was born before 1774 in “one of the villages below”(2), possibly in a village across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.  It is likely that the village’s name was Cahokia. Prior to 1720’2 slaves were brought to this village.  Given Mary Ann’s surname it seems that her father, Pierre LaBuche(3), was a French creole from Canada and her mother, Marianne, a slave, from whom she gained her knowledge of the healing art(2).

She had thirteen children by three husbands. And, she was the first person that was sent for by the sick and attended to each one regularly as their physician. Even after the U.S. Army provided a physician at Fort Crawford, civilians preferred “Aunt Mary Anne” as their doctor.

She also charged her patients for her services for giving them “device and yarb to drink”. Reports indicate that she was not modest at all about her charges. She took her pay in the produce of the area. 
Mary Ann’s talents and her use of “Yarbs and drinks” were put to the test on June 26, 1827, when her baby granddaughter was scalped during an Indian attack. She covered her grandaughter’s exposed brain with a silver plate hammered out of a silver dollar.  In time, the skin covered the plate. She lived to be eighty years old.(4)

Mary Ann’s status is indicated by allocating a farm lot in 1820 to a French Canadian man in her life, ‘Charles Menard, for Marianne Labuche Menard his wife”.(2)

“Aunt Mary Anne’s” daughter, Adelaide Limery, followed in her mother’s footsteps as a medical practioneer. (1) Adelaide used roots, barks, berries, and seeds for different ailments. A story goes that when a Prairie du Chien logger was stabbed in a fight that punctured his lungs, the town doctors despaired in curing the logger. Adelaide took the logger home, and with her experience of “yarb and drink” cured him, earning $200 for her efforts.

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(1) Great Lakes Creoles: A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Lucy Murhpy
(2) French Canadians, Furs, and Indigenous Women in the Making of the Pacific Northwest, Jean Barman
(3) http://boards.ancestry.com/thread.aspx?mv=flat&m=71&p=surnames.gagnier
(4) Odd Wisconsin: Amusing, Perplexing, and Unlikely Stories from Wisconsin’s Past, Erika Janik
(5) Marianne Luban
(6) Early Times and Events in Wisconsin, James Lockwood