A temporary shell for the soul, the body was regarded as sacred in the Catholic religion. The clergy was indignant of scandalous immodesty, bare shoulders and bare arms, curly hair, fabrics that were too transparent and superfluous ornaments worn by women. In the mindset of that era, a woman's body was saturated with sex. As a matter of fact, people used the expression "sexed persons" to designate women. Furthermore, the prescriptions of religion required decency, modesty and a corporeal predisposition in accordance with the respect owed to the sacred during Church services.

Portrait en buste de la Marquise de Pompadour et Madame de Maintenon dont les plongeants décolletés fûrent cachés ultérieurement au crayon. / Head and shoulders portraits of Marquise de Pompadour and Madame de Maintenon; their plunging necklines was later hidden with pencilling.

Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour and Françoise D'Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon 1871, 1870

Livernois et Bienvenu, photographe
Musée de la civilisation, fonds d'archives du Séminaire de Québec, PH1988-1835 and PH1988-1580

Vulgar Display and Nudity

"The circumstance that renders luxury of dress in girls and women infinitely injurious is the indecency and scandalous immodesty of the dress itself, which are evident in the nudity of the shoulder and bosom that is exposed or merely covered with transparent cloth, which is absolutely forbidden, and must never be tolerated, being the cause of the fall of an infinite number of souls, according to the word of the Holy Ghost in the Scriptures, Who warns us to turn our gaze away from an indecently attired woman, because many have perished charmed by such pompous and vain outward appearances.

All this dissoluteness commences at a very early age, when we see little girls, even those of mean extraction, attired and decked out like dolls and shown off with bare shoulders and bosoms, a fashion that they continue to follow when they are older and even married. This is what goes on in the country, to the great scandal of this new Christianity, luxury and a great number of sins that are the inseparable consequences".

Têtu, H. et C.O. Gagnon, éd. Mandements, lettres pastorales et circulaires des Évêques de Québec, Québec, Imprimerie Générale A. Côté, 1887.

Debout au centre d'une place publique à peine esquissée, une jeune fille acadienne catholique est vêtue d'une lourde robe noire et d'un châle blanc. Au cou, elle porte une croix. / Standing in the middle of a half-sketched square, a young Catholic Acadian girl wears a heavy black dress and a white shawl. A cross hangs around her neck.

Acadian Girl, undated

in H.A Ogden, Picturesque Canada, 1882-1885
Musée de la civilisation, Séminaire de Québec Library, 291.7.22

Derrière des ballots de foin, un homme courtise une jeune fermière. / Behind bales of hay, a man woos a farmer girl.

Courtoisie à la campagne, undated

G. J. Pinwell
in H. W. Dulcken, Dalziel's Illustrated Goldsmith, 1865
Musée de la civilisation, Séminaire de Québec Library, 436.3

Une bourgeoise richement vêtue salue, tête baissée, un gentilhomme au visage hautain. / A richly dressed bourgeois woman nods her head in greeting to a gentleman with a haughty air.

La révérence, undated

G. J. Pinwell
in H. W. Dulcken, Dalziel's Illustrated Goldsmith, 1865
Musée de la civilisation, Séminaire de Québec Library, 436.3

Ball and Dance

"However, given the age and lively spirits of their daughter, Mademoiselle needs some entertainment and recreation, and we may deign to permit her some decent and moderate dances, but with persons of her sex only, and in the presence of Madam her Mother, but not in the presence of men and boys, this mixing of the sexes being strictly speaking what causes the risks and dissoluteness of the ball and of the dance".

Dans un sentier sauvage, un jeune homme à la faux et une jeune femme au sceau, retournent au bercail bras dessus bras dessous, amoureux. / A young man holding a scythe and a young woman with a pail return home arm in arm, strolling down a rustic pathway with love in their eyes.

Going Home, undated

in Donahoe's Magazine an Illustrated Monthly Journal, 1895
Musée de la civilisation, Séminaire de Québec Library, 547.5