Thursday, August 18, 2011

The 54 Wounds of Aurore Gagnon, Murdered by Step-Mother in Quebec - 1920


FULL TEXT: Quebec, April 22 – Mrs. Marie Anne Houde Gagnon was found guilty yesterday of torturing and murdering her sixteen-year-old [sic] stepdaughter, Aurore Gagnon, and sentenced to be hanged Oct. 1. The girl, after being beaten, was burned with a red hot poker and made to walk barefoot in the snow was forced to drink poison, the evidence disclosed. The post mortem examination of the body revealed 54 wounds. The defense pleaded insanity.

[“Girl of 16 Branded With Poker, Killed, by Her Stepmother,” The Hamilton Daily News (Oh.), Apr. 22, 1920, p. 5]

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WIKIPEDIA: Aurore Gagnon was the second of four children of farmer Télesphore Gagnon and his first wife Marie-Anne Caron, whom he married in September 1906. In Fortierville, Quebec, a small village on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, a hundred kilometers southwest of Quebec. The Gagnons’ first child Marie-Jeanne was born in August 1907. Aurore’s birth in 1909 was followed by that of Lucina then Georges in 1910 and Joseph in 1915.

In 1916, not long after Joseph’s birth, Marie-Anne Caron was hospitalized with tuberculosis. Marie-Anne Houde, the widow of a cousin of Télesphore, soon moved into the Gagnon home, claiming she wanted to “take care of the house and children.” She was a 30-something-year-old mother of two sons, Gerard and Henri-Georges. She was born in Sainte-Sophie-de-Lévrard, a neighboring municipality of Fortierville, Quebec. On 6 November 1917, 2-year-old Joseph was found dead in his bed. A coroner’s inquest revealed that it had been a natural death, although some villagers suspected that Marie-Anne Houde might have had something to do with it.

On 23 January 1918, Marie-Anne Caron died of tuberculosis at the Beauport Asylum. The next week, Télesphore Gagnon married Marie-Anne Houde. Although villagers were suspicious when two of her children subsequently died, there was no investigation. Meanwhile, Télesphore was beating Aurore with an axe handle. At age 10 in September 1919, Aurore was hospitalized for more than a month at the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec with a severe leg infection caused by a beating. Upon her release, the beatings resumed.


When Aurore died on February 12, 1920, the cause was listed as poisoning. It was not immediately known if she had been poisoned deliberately or if she had succumbed to an infection from her many wounds. Télesphore Gagnon and Marie-Anne Houde were arrested as they tried to leave the church after her funeral on February 19, 1920. Marie-Anne Houde was sentenced to be hanged for murder, but her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. After serving 15 years she was paroled for “health reasons,” and she died of breast cancer in May 1936. Télesphore Gagnon was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to life imprisonment, but he was released from prison in 1925 for “good behavior” after serving only 5 years. He returned to his hometown and his previous life, where he wrote several letters to Marie-Anne Houde, still in prison.

After Marie-Anne Houde’s death, Télesphore remarried. He died peacefully in 1961.

Aurore Gagnon remains a popular cultural icon in Quebec, with almost mythical status. Numerous books have been published detailing her life. In 1920, the first dramatic production was written by Louis Petitjean; it quickly became his most famous play. Télesphore Gagnon tried unsuccessfully to block the release of the 1952 film, La petite Aurore: l’enfant martyre. Another film, Aurore, was released in 2005.


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For more examples, see Step-Mothers from Hell.

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24 comments:

  1. I hope Marie-Anne Houde rot in hell...forever

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    1. I agree! There has to be a special place in hell for those who deliberately seeks out to cause harm or death to a kid! I believe that is one of the unforgivable laws...violence against children, and by all rights she was still just a child...even though she was 16. Poor Aurore! I see so much of her attitude in me! Don't get me wrong, I don't believe I was reincarnated from her... I just know my attitude begat me several serious whippings from my mom!

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    2. Marie-Anne Houde was a very spiteful, mean spirited person, whom had become very jealous of Aurore after Telesphore told her about how Aurore 'came to be', and herself pregnant just set her off to remove Aurore from the scene...the sooner the better. I don't think Telesphore would have raised a hand, much less an axe handle to any of his children...but Marie-Anne had a way to 'trip his switches' and in so doing brought about the child's death sooner.
      She also had an alleged mental issue due to illness when she was still a teen that affected her in ways that 'scream' psychopath.

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  2. That picture of "Aurore" is actually of her older sister, Marie-Jeanne

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  3. There is only one photo of Aurore and she is a wee todler. She's the little girl in front of the woman.

    http://bio.starquebec.net/aurore_fichiers/image002.jpg

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  4. I remember seeing this when I was 6 or 7 yrs old. I was in convent..... I screamed when she put her hands on the hot wood stove.... the nuns took me away I wish they had never allowed me to see it at that age. It still haunts me to this day!!!!!

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    1. What is it like to be in a convent? I grew up in the military, and that was strict enough!

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  5. Aurore was mudered when she was 11.not 16 years old

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    1. *10 it hadn't yet been her 11th birthday her birthday was May 31st and she died on February 20th

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    2. Oops! I apologize! I put 16 as Aurore's passing. So many places I researched and half of them said 16 and the other half said 10, 11,etc.

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  6. That is so sad, and i am glad that the father and stepmother died. Rest in peace angle

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  7. That is so sad, and i am glad that the father and stepmother died. Rest in peace angle

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  8. Speechless...
    I am doing my Family Tree. I was told my Grandmother Rita M Parent ( Trudelle ) mother was a Nun. That her birth Father was Elphege Parent and her mother was Philomene Canuel on Death Cert it states these names. I founs some info however it went no further. I am close to getting my DNA matched to my Tree and have been searching diligently. I came across this story after researching. I hope and pray that this is not the same people. RIP Aurore. Terrible people...

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  9. If this page is still open I would like to say that this horrific case of child abuse seems to be a common event nowadays.
    Aurore was so severely tortured that it killed her and more and more children are dying from this fate now.
    Why isn't more attention paid to this nightmare?

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    1. It is not true that more children die of abuse nowadays. Percentage-wise, children are safer now than they have every been in the history of this world. As little as three hundred years ago, it was legal to put a child to death for misbehaving. Now we have a vast array of services to help them.

      The problem is that the news tells you what is happening, and you never stop to consider that it has always been going on, possibly under your nose. You just know about it now.

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    2. Ever hear of Sylvia Likens who was tortured and murdered in 1965 in Indianapolis, IN? Even though Sylvia was no kin to Gertrude B. (I can't spell her name)...that poor kid suffered horribly and not just from Gertrude, but also her 7 kids and neighborhood kids that she invited and encourage to abuse the girl. I read the court transcript and which the old battle-axe was still alive so I could give her a taste of her own medicine!!

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  10. We often think of the past as "the good ol days" but we are merely victims of selective memory. Be it the Holocaust or children suffering from abusive parents; for those willing to forget evil atrocities of years gone by, will be doomed to repeat it. - L Cohen

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  11. We thought everyone lived that way. We did not know the difference, until we were grown. I vowed never to treat my children that way. I would not beat them and make them fear me. Love goes a lot further than fear. This story makes me sick. I just want to throw up.

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  12. All I can say wow so lost for words to many victims ( children ) in that family in Gods arms they are safe and loved

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  13. What I find interesting is that women are sentenced to much harsher sentences when the stepfather hurts their children than when female stepparents hurt the natural children of biological fathers. This is another case. Not a single post here is aghast that the father let these things happen, and yet if the roles were reversed, we would all be demanding to know why the mother let this happen.

    For instance, in this case, the father only served five years. it was HIS CHILD. The stepmother's sentence was commuted from a hanging to life. She served 15 years, and then she was only released for health reasons.

    It blows my mind that no one ever considers the double standard.

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    1. Fathers are, according to progressive ideology (Frankfurt school critical theory), mere patriarchal oppressors, brutes who have little compassion for children due to "toxic masculinity." This perverse brainwashing (operant conditioning) has been so pervasive for a half century it is no wonder most people can't think straight.

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    2. Hi. I believe it had something to do with the time frame they were living (double standard). It sounds like the southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, etc.., all the way up through to the 1990's. I had a hard time believing Telesphore let that woman loose on his own kids! It was what...just a few weeks from when the mother of his children was still alive, and though she was sick the family was still happy (or reasonably so), and Aurore was his "Sunshine" till the time when the evil step monster started collecting on the kids she 'found' dead. And he let it happen, and he had to have known something was up! But he did know. He was in lust or heat with his wife in the hospital for so long. But she wouldn't wait for dirt to get cold on the kids' mother. Aaaaarrrgh!

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