The filles à la cassette, or “the casket girls” were shipped from France to help colonize the Louisiana territory with refined citizens. The first group of young ladies, some from orphanages, others from fine families, arrived in Mobile in 1704. A second group arrived in Biloxi in 1719, and a third group of 78 arrived in New Orleans in 1728. The girls were called casket girls for the small chests that came with them that held their belongings and valuables.
Unlike other woman who were forcibly transported to the territory, many of whom had been imprisoned for petty crimes, the filles à la cassette were to be virgins. In New Orleans, the girls were taken to the Ursuline Convent where they were protected and educated until they were married.
Over the years, their girls’ nickname and reports of their pale skin have morphed into fanciful, but false, stories about the young ladies being vampires who were forcibly restrained on the third floor of the Ursuline Convent.
Other stories of a “Petticoat Rebellion,” by the young women are also false. Per these tales, the insurrection by the ladies over their food was calmed when Gov. Bienville offered his cook, Madame Langlois, to teach the young women how to cook Native American and French dishes with local ingredients, thus spreading Creole cuisine