Mary Ann was a slave who worked in her master’s house near Québec City’s Place Royale. In August of 1777, she left his house without permission and, presumably, fled the city forever. Where did she come from? How did she get there in the first place? There is really no way to know. In the Québec Gazette article that offered a reward for her return, she was identified only as a ‘panese’ woman, a term in common usage at the time that referred to her indigenous identity. She was not the only slave in Québec City at the time; she was not the only slave to flee her master.
241 years after she left, Mary Ann has come back to la Place Royale, but she has come back on her own terms. She is staring across the square that witnessed her servitude, staring down history itself. I wish she could know of the reverence in which she is held by passersby as they read the story of her courage on the plaque next to her likeness.
Her statue is part of the seasonal public art initiative known as Passages Insolites. Historian José Doré and artist Jean-Robert Drouillard have collaborated to make her presence there possible.