Who IS this Woman?

CVA 174-01 - Portrait of Bertha Goudron from France ca1890 (She ran Goudron's Hardware on Hastings)

CVA 174-01 – Who could this be? Is it Bertha Goudron? Or someone else?

Who was this attractive woman with such a determined countenance¹?

If you were to ask this question at the City of Vancouver Archives — where this photograph has resided, probably, for most of its life — staff there might, quite sensibly, direct you to the inscription near the bottom of the portrait (Bertha Goudron) and to the ‘title’ and ‘scope and content’ sections of the photo record: Bertha Goudron, who came from France and was proprietor of “Goudron’s Hardware on Hastings Street.”

However, to borrow a phrase from a Professor I know, putting your faith in such a strategy, in this case, “would lead you to a bad place.”


  • Bertha Marie Goudron was born 1890, so (if the date of the photo is roughly accurate, and I’m assuming that it is; although I’d bump it up a year to 1891, the year the family moved to Vancouver from Montreal), the subject of the portrait would  have been a babe-in-arms rather than a 30-something woman.
  • Bertha, like all her siblings and her mother, Malvina, was born in Montreal, not France; the only family member to have been born in France was Bertha’s father, Jules²;
  • Goudron’s Hardware (1891-1898) was located at 424 Westminster Ave.; never on Hastings Street (it was about half a block south of Hastings, on the east side of today’s Main St.)
  • Bertha was never an owner of the family hardware store. That was her parents’ joint concern until Jules died in 1897 (Vancouver Daily World 27 Nov 1897). Note: In the Vancouver directory listings for the shop in 1894 and 1895, both Goudrons appeared, but Mrs. Malvina Goudron in each case appeared first! More importantly, the name on the shop was “Malvina Goudron”; Jules’ name doesn’t appear anywhere on the signage — at least not in the ca1891 photo shown below.³
  • I believe the portrait shown above was made in Vancouver (by a photographer unknown to CVA), not, for example, by a photographer based in Montreal. The reason I reached that conclusion is the very distinctive armchair in which the sitter is posed. The same chair appears in this Vancouver portrait made of W. L. Fagan and this one of Alfred Wallace.
  • Bertha didn’t have any sisters, and that fact, taken together with the foregoing leads me to conclude that the woman pictured above is not Bertha, but her mother, Malvina Goudron.
Ch P95 - [Exterior of Malvina [G]oudron hardware (formerly First Baptist Church) on Westminister Avenue] ca 1890 Harry T Devine

CVA Ch P95 – Exterior of Malvina Goudron’s Market Hardware (424 Westminster Ave.), ca 1891. Harry T Devine photo.

Bertha Goudron

I suspect that CVA has correctly identified the photo below as being of Bertha. There is definitely a family resemblance between this image and the first one in this post. But this woman, it seems to me, has a more rebellious spirit; there is a mischievous smile on her lips; and her eyes say to me “I’ll try anything once!”

CVA 174-12 - Portrait of Bertha Goudron ca1900

CVA 174-12 – Portrait of Bertha Goudron, ca1910. I don’t recognize the photographer’s mark as being a Vancouver image-maker. It may have been a pro on Vancouver Island, however, where her sometime-husband, Edward Marcotte, had a farm.

CVA claims, as of the publication date of this post, that the year of this photo is ca1900. But this woman appears to be wearing a wedding ring on the appropriate finger. Bertha married Edward Marcotte in 1910 (and was divorced from him by 1919 – the year he remarried), thus I conclude that it was made more likely ca1910.

First Baptist Church’s First Chapel

You may wonder how on earth First Baptist Church could wriggle into this post about a patently French-Canadian, Roman Catholic family.

This segment serves as a sort of update to my post titled The First First, which pertained to the location of First Baptist’s first owned worship building. You will see in the “Post-Chapel Applications” section of that post that I mention the “Coudron Hardware” being the purchaser and modifier of the former chapel.

Well, you don’t need me to tell you, now, that “Coudron’s Hardware” should actually read “Goudron’s Hardware”!

Yes, the formidable-looking lady whose portrait is featured in this post was the owner of the first post-chapel application of the little building that once was FBC’s.


¹My thanks to Maurice Guibord, for his generous assistance with this post. Maurice is Président, Société historique francophone de la Colombie-Britannique.

²The family consisted of (with birth years): Jules (husband, ca1851); Malvina (wife, 1859); Paul (son, 1881; “for a number of years booking agent for the old Orpheum Theatre” – Province, 3 Jan 1934); Gaston (son, 1886); Alexander (son, 1888); Bertha (daughter, 1890). Some of the given names differ, at times, due to French spelling variations (e.g., Berthe, Alexandre, Malvine). The surname has been misspelled, notably: “Gondron” in B.C. vital statistics and in census records, and “Coudron” in CVA’s photo record showing the family’s hardware store. I am in the process of seeking corrections to these errors.

³Jules’ hardware store failure in Montreal may have had something to do with the emphasis on Malvina as owner of their Vancouver enterprise. An “insolvent notice in the matter of Jules Goudron Hardware, Montreal” appeared in the Montreal Gazette on 11 Sept 1891.

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5 Responses to Who IS this Woman?

  1. lhhouben says:

    Wow….very interesting read…love the photos and the detective work.

  2. Judy Graves says:

    This is my family! My maiden name, Goudron. Alexander Goudron , Upholsterer, was my Grandfather. The mink tails adorning Bertha’s cape, we played with as children. I remember the feel of that cape, wild mink, so lush and sleek and warm!

    And I think I may know why Great Grandmother Malvina’s name is emblazened on the signage!

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