Francoise Outelas

early French colonial settler, businesswoman
Born: ?
Birthplace: ?

Although very little is known about Outelas, particularly her childhood, it is evident from a handful of surviving records that she was an important figure in the early history of Vincennes, a small but thriving French settlement that later became the territorial capital of Indiana before it became a state.

In 1756, Outelas married Antoine Drouet de Richarville at Kaskaskia, a settlement near the mouth of the Kaskaskia River in present-day Indiana. Although it is not known how old Outelas was at the time, the marriage was apparently her first, and so she was probably in her late teens. Her husband, who was born in 1699, was 57. However, such arrangements were not uncommon then, and the marriage prospered. They had three children, Joseph Antoine, Elisabeth, and Marguerite, who were born at Vincennes in 1759, 1760, and 1762, respectively.

Colonial Frenchwomen often enjoyed a great deal of independence and were actively involved in business, especially if their husbands were away for long periods of time fur trapping or trading. Outelas's husband, Antoine Drouet, was a military officer, but he also acquired large tracts of land and was involved in the fur trade. After his death in 1764, Outelas remained a widow for nine years, during which time she managed the family lands and made various business transactions. In 1773 she married a local merchant named Ambroise Dageny; later, her daughters also married prosperous merchants at Vincennes, extending the family's business ties. At her death, Outelas was apparently among the wealthiest and most influential residents of Vincennes.

Died: Nov. 27, 1801
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