Skip to content

Womens History Month: The Casket Girls

Photo Courtesy: Historic New Orleans Collection

Share This Post

Table of Contents

In the 1700’s, the male population of France’s Louisiana territory greatly outnumbered the women. The solution? The French territories were to send over appropriate women to be married off to local men searching for a wife. The catch? The arriving women might have been something more than they bargained for.

The Arrival 

In 1728, a New Orleans post was bustling with activity when mysterious, new visitors arrived. A group of women, clutching their coffin-shaped chests holding their belongings, had stepped on solid ground for the first time in six months. They were eager to face the new world ahead of them. Upon their arrival, however, it did not take long for rumors to spread. 

Their abnormally pale skin quickly became the talk of the town. They were so pale, in fact, that their skin quickly burned and blistered within minutes of being under the hot, sub-tropical sun. Each girl was handpicked by the Bishop of Quebec based on their age and background. Their job? To marry one of the French colonists inhabiting the newly developed Louisiana colony. 

Unfortunately, their arranged marriages did not go as expected. The girls were placed under the protection of the Ursuline nuns until they were brought to their next home. Majority were placed into unwanted marriages and those left unwed were forced to find other ways to survive. After hearing of their mistreatings, the French King demanded for them to return home. 

The Myth Begins 

The Sisters of the Ursuline Convent had once placed the girls casket-shaped chest that held their belongings on the third-floor of the Convent. Up until the king’s order, the third floor had remained untouched with the windows and doors sealed shut. When the nuns finally returned to collect the young girls items, they finally discovered that the infamous chests were empty. To no avail, the nuns were unable to find any clue of the girls’ once-there belongings. 

The nuns began to fear that these girls were not who or what they claimed to be. To ensure the convents and others safety, the Ursuline nuns spared no expense to guarantee that nothing ever left that third-floor space. This included bolting shut any entrance and having any nails used in this process blessed by the Pope himself. 

The rumors that once followed the casket girls only grew stronger, but this time on more word was added: vampires.

The Truth 

Unfortunately, while the tales of the undead can be fun and interesting, there is no proof that these girls were vampires. Contrary to popular belief, their trunks were not big enough to fit a body. In fact, they were pretty small and not even in the shape of a casket.

Like many fascinating women throughout history, the casket girls made their mark on history. It is believed that these young women left a lasting footprint on the original colony of Louisiana. The Casket Girls ushered in the era of colonialism, reshaping the “New World”. 

More To Explore