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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Madeline La Framboise

Madeline La Framboise

GRHC - March 3rd, 2010

Glance at the Past celebrates Women's History Month. Today, a focus on an early Grand Rapids fur trader.



Born of French and Indian ancestry, Madeline La Framboise became one of the most successful independent fur traders in early Michigan history. At the turn of the nineteenth century, she and her husband, fur trader Joseph La Framboise, left their home on Mackinac Island every fall to trade with Ottawa Indians living along the Grand River. Together, they built a trading post near the present community of Ada, perhaps the earliest mercantile establishment in the river valley. But in the fall of 1806, while Madeline and Joseph were trading at a village near Muskegon, Joseph was shot and killed by an Ottawa named White Ox.

Instead of returning to Mackinac Island with her two children, Madeline expanded their business to include posts throughout the western and northern portions of Michigan's lower peninsula. At a time when $1,000 annually could be expected by a good, experienced trader, la Framboise earned from $5,000 to $10,000 per year. Soon, however, it was increasingly difficult to compete with large companies, and in 1818 La Framboise sold her business to John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company, and stayed on with the new owners for three years before retiring to Mackinac Island.

After her success in the decidedly man's world of rivers and fur-trading, La Framboise taught herself to read and write French and English and initiated a second career teaching the Mackinac children of St. Anne's Parish.  Her additional gifts of money and property were one of the parish's main means of support. At her death, La Framboise left a financially secure family and an enduring reputation as an outstanding businesswoman and well-respected community member. 

Full Details

TitleMadeline La Framboise
KeywordsGlance at the Past, La Framboise, trapping, trapper, fur, trade, radio, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission
Pubdate StringMarch 3rd, 2010

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