THE CANADIAN FRENCH-SPEAKING WORLD and some of the people who have contributed to its greatness


Community Life

Émilie Tremblay
Émilie Tremblay

Date of birth:
January 4, 1872

Place of birth:



Photo : Les Archives du Yukon


















When Emilie Tremblay, née Fortin, was fifteen, her family emigrated to Cohoes, New York (U.S.). There, she met Nolasque Tremblay whom she married on December 11, 1893. On June 16, 1894, after an eventful and funny five-thousand mile journey, Émilie Tremblaly arrived in Fortymile, in the Yukon. She was the first white woman to have crossed the Chilkoot Pass. The couple spent the winter in Miller Creek in a little log cabin. That year, Émilie decided to invite the miners to share their Christmas dinner. On the menu was stuffed rabbit, roast caribou, boiled brown beans, King Oscar sardines, dried potatoes, butter and sourdough bread and prune pudding. Her reputation quickly spread throughout the Yukon. In the spring, Émilie and her husband made a garden on the roof of their cabin and harvested an abundance of radishes and lettuce. From the fall of 1895 to the spring of 1893, the Trembleys visited their families in the United States and Quebec. They came back by the Chilkoot pass in the middle of the Gold Rush. In 1906, they travelled in Europe for four months. Until 1913, Mr. and Mrs. Tremblay walked from one mining claim to another in the Klondike. Later, they settled in Dawson. She opened a women's clothes store that is now an historic building.

Émilie Tremblay was a very courageous woman who distinguished herself by her social involvement and her devotion to others. She was the founder of the Ladies of the Golden North, President of the Yukon Women Pioneers and a life member of the Daughters of the Empire. The numerous medals that she received and some of her souvenirs were placed in the Saguenay Museum in Quebec. She was godmother to 25 children in addition to raising the daughter of her sister who was a widow with 9 children to feed. Émilie kept open house for travellers, missionaries and widows. Msgr Bunoz called Émilie the "mother of the Klondike missionnairies". During the war, Émilie knitted 263 pairs of socks for soldiers, in addition to the ones she gave as gifts. A year after the death of her husband, in 1935, she visited her family and friends in Quebec and the United States (1936-1939). In 1940, she returned to Dawson and at the age of 68 married Louis Lagrois in Dawson. She left her store and moved into Mr. Lagrois's house at Grand Forks in the Yukon. In August 1946, she went to San Francisco to participate in the annual reunion of old Yukoners. She spent the last years of her life in a retirement home in Victoria, B.C. Émilie Tremblay died on April 22, 1949, at the age of 77. In 1985, to commemorate her exceptional devotion to others, the authorities named the first francophone school in the Yukon École Émilie-Tremblay. And this is how little Émilie from Saint-Joseph d'Alma, the little francophone girl, marked the history of the Yukon.