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Allisonian Firsts: Aurore Bourque

A virtual exhibition celebrating the bold Allisonians who became the "firsts" in their field.

Aurore Bourque

First Acadian to graduate from Mount Allison University, 1932

Graduation portrait of Aurore Bourque.

Aurore Bourque, 1932

Taken from the 1932 Allisonian yearbook. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Aurore Eugenie Bourque was born on 26 October 1908 in Leger’s Corner (present-day Dieppe), New Brunswick. She was the daughter of Joseph Vital E. Bourque (1876-1952) and Théosene Saulnier (1879-1975). As there were no French schools in Moncton at the time, Aurore completed her secondary education at Aberdeen High School, graduating in 1928 alongside Northrup Frye, who went on to become a world-renowned literary critic. According to Aurore, he was keen to help Acadian students with their English essays.

At the time, Acadian women who wanted to pursue higher education had few options available to them. The Collège Saint-Joseph in Memramcook, New Brunswick, was only open to male students, and Acadian women had to travel to Quebec for the same educational opportunities. Aurore instead decided to attend Mount Allison University, earning a Bachelor of Arts with an Honours certificate in French in 1932. While in attendance, she was Vice-President and Secretary of the French Club (Le Cercle Francais).

Her decision to complete her studies closer to home may have resulted in a few missed opportunities. Though she was a devout Catholic herself, Aurore was unable to find employment at the French Catholic schools of the region, presumably because she had been educated at an anglophone or Methodist university. She eventually secured a teaching position at Moncton High School where she taught French from 1940 until her retirement in 1968.

She was an avid traveler and a supporter of the Canadian Federation of University Women. In May 1943, the Mount Allison Record reported that Aurore had returned home from teaching in British Columbia, and had recently delivered a talk about a trip to Mexico to the Sackville University Women's Club. She died in Shediac, New Brunswick, on 15 July 2002, and is buried the St. Anselme Parish Cemetery in Dieppe, New Brunswick. The Aurore Bourque Bursary was established in her name at Mount Allison University.

Related materials

You can find more information about Aurore Bourque and peruse the contents of her fonds (accession no. 2012.09), on our Descriptions Database. You can access these records by planning a visit to the archives.