Mary Rose Anna Travers “La Bolduc” (1894-1941)

Mary Rose Anna Travers “La Bolduc”

Starting in the late 1920s Mary Rose Anna Travers wrote many songs in colloquial French that expressed the joys and miseries of the common people. Born to a large family of English descent in Newport, Québec on the Gaspé peninsula, she left home at to work as a domestic in Montréal. In 1914 she married Édouard Bolduc, and together they had a large family. Although there was little or no musical tradition in her family Mary learned to play the fiddle, the harmonica, the accordion, and the mouth harp. With the beginning of the Depression years, she turned to public musical performance to add to the family's modest income.

Mary was first hired as a fiddler for a musical show in 1927. Then encouraged to sing her recording career with the Starr label also began at this time, Recordings of her songs, La Cuisinière and La Servante sold an unprecedented 12,000 copies in Québec. She shot to fame throughout the province and was universally referred to as "La Bolduc." For the next decade, she performed her unique style of Irish and French-Canadian folk with song writing that resonated with the working class. La Bolduc was also her own publicist and tour director, often sending posters a month ahead to be distributed to general stores and parishes to advertise her concerts.

The evolution of the chanson in Québec was greatly influenced by La Bolduc, and her songs enjoy a special place in Québec's musical legacy.

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