Aurore!  The Mystery of the Martyred Child

Time Line of the Gagnon Affair and Its Aftermath

[ Église et village de Sainte-Philomène de Fortierville, Inconnu, Comité touristique et culturel de Fortierville  ]

1909, May 31 : Birth of Aurore.

1916 : Marie-Anne Houde arrives in the Gagnon household.

1917, November 6 : Death of Joseph Gagnon, at the age of two and one half.

1918, January 23 : Death of Marie-Anne Caron, Aurore Gagnon’s mother, at the Beauport Asylum.

1918, February 1 : Marriage of Télesphore Gagnon and Marie-Anne Houde.

1919, September 16 to October 17 : Aurore Gagnon stays at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Quebec City, for treatment of an ulcerated foot that would not heal.

1920, February 12 : Death of Aurore Gagnon.

1920, February 13 : Autopsy on the body of Aurore Gagnon.

1920, February 13-14 : Coroner’s inquest.

1920, February 14 : Funeral of Aurore Gagnon.

1920, February 14 : Arrest of Télesphore Gagnon and Marie-Anne Houde.

1920, February 16 : Appearance of the two accused, who plead not guilty.

1920, February 24-25 : Preliminary inquiry of Télesphore Gagnon, held behind closed doors.

1920, March 4 and 11 : Preliminary inquiry of Marie-Anne Houde, held behind closed doors.

1920, March 18 : The police court decides to lay a charge of murder against the Gagnon couple.

1920, April 6 : Beginning of the term of the “Criminal Assizes” of the Quebec City judicial district.

1920, April 13 : Beginning of the trial of Marie-Anne Houde.

1920, April 15-16 : Horrific testimony is given by Marie-Jeanne Gagnon and Gérard Gagnon against Marie-Anne Houde.

1920, April 17 : Marie-Anne Houde’s lawyers change their defence strategy: Is she responsible for her actions?

1920, April 21 : End of the trial of Marie-Anne Houde; the judge pronounces her death sentence.

1920, April 23 : Beginning of the trial of Télesphore Gagnon.

1920, April 29 : End of the trial of Télesphore Gagnon.

1920, May 4 : Télesphore Gagnon is sentenced to life imprisonment.

1920, July 8 : Birth of the twins, Jeanne d’Arc and Roch-Jean, in the Quebec City prison.

1920, August-September : Campaign to commute the death sentence of Marie-Anne Houde.

1920, September 29 : The death sentence of Marie-Anne Houde is commuted to life imprisonment.

1921, January 12 : The twins arrive at the St. Vincent de Paul Crèche; perhaps also the date that Marie-Anne Houde is transferred to the Kingston Penitentiary.

1921, January 17 : Aurore l’enfant martyre (Aurore, the child martyr), the first melodramatic play inspired by the Fortierville events, written by Léon Petitjean and Henri Rollin, members of a Montreal theatre troupe, is performed in Montreal. This play, an enormous success, would be performed from 5000 to 6000 times between 1921 and the 1950s.

1923, April : The beginning of applications to have Marie-Anne Houde released.

1925, July 8 : Télesphore Gagnon is released from prison, either because he apparently had little time left to live, or because of good conduct.

1927 : The play Aurore l’enfant martyre is rewritten. Originally two acts, the play is expanded to five acts. The trial of Marie-Anne Houde is added.

1927 and 1931: A novel by Robert DeBeaujolais is published: La petite martyre victime de la marâtre: roman sensationnel (The little martyr, victim of her stepmother: a sensational novel).

1933, February-September : Marie-Anne Houde faces health problems: she undergoes surgery for breast cancer, but it apparently reappears.

1935, February-March : Marie-Anne Houde’s health seems stable. According to the Minister of Justice, there is no valid reason to recommend clemency (release).

1935, June 22 :Marie-Anne Houde’s health deteriorates, the cancer spreading to her lungs; doctors give her no more than six months to live.

1935, June 29 : Marie-Anne Houde is released from Kingston Penitentiary.

1936, May 12 : Death of Marie-Anne Houde, in Montreal.

1938, January 8 : Télesphore Gagnon marries for a third time: he takes as his wife Marie-Laure Habel of Ste. Philomène.

1951 : La petite Aurore l’enfant martyre. (Little Aurore, the child martyr). Shooting of the first film on Aurore, “the child martyr,” inspired by the play of Petitjean and Rollin.

1951, November : Télesphore Gagnon and members of his family seek a temporary court injunction to prevent release of the film.

1951, December : The company France-Film wins the case and is thus able to show its film on the big screen.

1952, April 25 : Première of the film La petite Aurore l’enfant martyre (Little Aurore, the child martyr); the film is released in the cities of Montreal, Quebec, Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke and Hull.

1952 : Publication of a novel by Emile Asselin: La petite Aurore (Little Aurore); the novel was inspired by the play that served as a basis for the film.

1952 : Publication of a novel by Benoît Tessier (pseudonym of Yves Thériault): Le drame d'Aurore (The drama of Aurore).

1961, August : Death of Télesphore Gagnon at Ste. Philomène of Fortierville.

1966 ? : Publication of a novel by Hubert Pascal: Le roman d'Aurore la petite persécutée (The novel of Aurore, the little persecuted girl).

1982 : Publication of the script of Léon Petitjean and Henri Rollin, Aurore l'enfant martyre (Aurore, the child martry). History and presentation of the play by Alonzo Le Blanc.

1986 : L’obsession de Marie-Anne G. (The obsession of Marie-Anne G.) A radio play, written by Denis Giguère, which deals with Marie-Anne Houde’s imprisonment in the psychiatric wing of Kingston Penitentiary.

1990 : A novel by André Mathieu: Aurore la vraie histoire(Aurore: the true story).

1994, November : Made-for-television movie Les grands procès du Québec : L'affaire de la petite Aurore (Famous trials in Quebec history: the little Aurore affair). A one-hour dramatization, directed by Mark Blandford and broadcast on the TVA network. A brochure is published at the same time.

2004, June: Opening of Fortierville's interpretation center.

2005, July 8 : Release of the motion picture Aurore, screenplay and production by Luc Dionne. New wave of public interest in the Gagnon affair.

Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History