Women of Fort Vancouver

Modern-day Fort Vancouver, a National Historic Site. NPS photo.
Modern-day Fort Vancouver, a National Historic Site.

NPS photo.

Fort Vancouver was established by the Hudson's Bay Company, a British fur trading company that operated throughout North America, in 1825. The fort, located in present-day Vancouver, Washington, served as a regional headquarters and supply depot for the HBC's network of forts in its "Columbia Department" - a vast area of land that included the modern states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, parts of Montana, northern California, British Columbia, and southern parts of Alaska.

Women were a vital part of life at Fort Vancouver and the communities that grew up around it. At Fort Vancouver, women made up almost half the total population of people living in and around the fort. Together with their children, they comprised more than two-thirds of its population. Most of the women at Fort Vancouver were American Indian or Métis wives of Company employees. These women were responsible for maintaining their homes and caring for children, and they also engaged in labor for the Company, including working as translators and guides and preparing furs for trade.

Learn more about the women who were so vital the culture and economy of this fur trade fort.

Explore more women’s stories of developing the American economy here.

Women's Stories at Fort Vancouver

  • Daguerreotype of Marguerite McLoughlin was taken in her later years. NPS photo.

    Marguerite McLoughlin

    Discover the story of Marguerite McLoughlin a Métis woman who served as the "first lady" of Fort Vancouver from 1825 to 1845.

  • Ornate sewing cabinent with doors open. NPS photo.

    Marguerite's Sewing Tools

    Marguerite was also a skilled seamstress and sewed for family and friends. Explore the items she kept in this ornamental sewing cabinet.

  • Photograph of Eloisa McLoughlin standing. NPS photo.

    Eloisa McLoughlin Rae Harvey

    Eloisa McLoughlin Rae Harvey grew up at Fort Vancouver and later lived at the McLoughlin House in Oregon City.

  • A woman with dark hair and dark colored dress with a lace collar.

    Maria Barclay

    Explore the story of Maria Barclay, a Métis woman who lived at Fort Vancouver in the 1840s.

  • Women dressed in 1840s style clothing do handwork at an event. NPS photo.

    Native Women and HBC Employees

    Native American women and their children made up the majority at Fort Vancouver. Learn more about their influence on the trading post.

  • Black and white photo of a seated elderly woman.

    Adrienne LaChapelle

    Adrienne LaChapelle was born at Fort Vancouver in 1824 and visited the fort often. She and her husband became farmers in Champoeg, Oregon.

  • An 1850s lithograph of Fort Vancouver, the Columbia River and Mount Hood.

    Kilakotah Labonté

    Kilakotah Labonté was a Clatsop woman who lived at Fort Vancouver and the Willamette Valley.

Establishment of Fort Vancouver

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Last updated: March 26, 2021