A bead is a small, decorative object, formed in a variety of shapes and sizes of a material such as stone, shell, plastic, wood or pearl and with a small hole for threading or stringing. Beads range in size from under 1 millimetre to over 1 centimetre in diameter. A pair of beads made from Nassarius sea snail shells 100,000 years old, are thought to be the earliest known examples of jewellery. Beadwork is the craft of making things with beads. Beads can be woven together with specialized thread, strung onto thread or soft, flexible wire, or adhered to a surface. Beads can be divided into several types of overlapping categories based on different criteria such as the materials from which they are made, the process used in their manufacturing, the place or period of origin, the patterns on their surface, or their general shape. In some cases, such as millefiori and cloisonné beads, multiple categories may overlap in an interdependent fashion. Beads can be made of many different materials; the earliest beads were made of a variety of natural materials which, after they were gathered, could be drilled and shaped.
As humans became capable of obtaining and working with more difficult materials, those materials were added to the range of available substances. But nowadays synthetic materials were added. In modern manufacturing, the most common bead materials are wood, glass and stone. Beads are still made from many occurring materials, both organic and inorganic. However, some of these materials now undergo some extra processing beyond mere shaping and drilling such as color enhancement via dyes or irradiation; the natural organics include bone, horn, seeds, animal shell, wood. For most of human history pearls were the ultimate precious beads of natural origin because of their rarity. Amber and jet are of natural organic origin although both are the result of partial fossilization; the natural inorganics include various types of stones, ranging from gemstones to common minerals, metals. Of the latter, only a few precious metals occur in pure forms, but other purified base metals may as well be placed in this category along with certain occurring alloys such as electrum.
There are paper beads. The oldest-surviving synthetic materials used for beadmaking have been ceramics: pottery and glass. Beads were made from ancient alloys such as bronze and brass, but as those were more vulnerable to oxidation they have been less well-preserved at archaeological sites. Many different subtypes of glass are now used for beadmaking, some of which have their own component-specific names. Lead crystal beads have a high percentage of lead oxide in the glass formula, increasing the refractive index. Most of the other named glass types have their formulations and patterns inseparable from the manufacturing process. Small, fusible plastic beads can be placed on a solid plastic-backed peg array to form designs and melted together with a clothes iron. Fusible beads come in many colors and degrees of transparency/opacity, including varieties that glow in the dark or have internal glitter. Plastic toy beads, made by chopping plastic tubes into short pieces, were introduced in 1958 by Munkplast AB in Munka-Ljungby, under the brand Nabbi.
Known as Indian beads, they were sewn together to form ribbons. The pegboard for bead designs was invented in the early 1960s by Gunnar Knutsson in Vällingby, Sweden, as a therapy for elderly homes; the bead designs were used as trivets. When the beads were made of polyethylene, it became possible to fuse them with a flat iron. In 2005, Munkplast/Nabbi introduced the Photo Pearls software that converts digital photos to bead designs. Hama come in three sizes: mini and maxi. Perler beads come in two sizes called biggie. Pyssla beads only come in one size. Modern mass-produced beads are shaped by carving or casting, depending on the material and desired effect. In some cases, more specialized metalworking or glassworking techniques may be employed, or a combination of multiple techniques and materials may be used such as in cloisonné. Most glass beads are pressed glass, mass-produced by preparing a molten batch of glass of the desired color and pouring it into molds to form the desired shape; this is true of most plastic beads.
A smaller and more expensive subset of glass and lead crystal beads are cut into precise faceted shapes on an individual basis. This was once done by hand but has been taken over by precision machinery. "Fire-polished" faceted beads are a less expensive alternative to hand-cut faceted crystal. They derive their name from the second half of a two-part process: first, the glass batch is poured into round bead molds they are faceted with a grinding wheel; the faceted beads are poured onto a tray and reheated just long enough to melt the surface, "polishing" out any minor surface irregularities from the grinding wheel. There are several specialized glassworking techniques that create a distinctive appearance throughout the body of the resulting beads, which are primarily referred to by the glass type. If the glass b
Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place, now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes; the history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age. Egypt reached the pinnacle of its power in the New Kingdom, ruling much of Nubia and a sizable portion of the Near East, after which it entered a period of slow decline. During the course of its history Egypt was invaded or conquered by a number of foreign powers, including the Hyksos, the Libyans, the Nubians, the Assyrians, the Achaemenid Persians, the Macedonians under the command of Alexander the Great; the Greek Ptolemaic Kingdom, formed in the aftermath of Alexander's death, ruled Egypt until 30 BC, under Cleopatra, it fell to the Roman Empire and became a Roman province.
The success of ancient Egyptian civilization came from its ability to adapt to the conditions of the Nile River valley for agriculture. The predictable flooding and controlled irrigation of the fertile valley produced surplus crops, which supported a more dense population, social development and culture. With resources to spare, the administration sponsored mineral exploitation of the valley and surrounding desert regions, the early development of an independent writing system, the organization of collective construction and agricultural projects, trade with surrounding regions, a military intended to assert Egyptian dominance. Motivating and organizing these activities was a bureaucracy of elite scribes, religious leaders, administrators under the control of a pharaoh, who ensured the cooperation and unity of the Egyptian people in the context of an elaborate system of religious beliefs; the many achievements of the ancient Egyptians include the quarrying and construction techniques that supported the building of monumental pyramids and obelisks.
Ancient Egypt has left a lasting legacy. Its art and architecture were copied, its antiquities carried off to far corners of the world, its monumental ruins have inspired the imaginations of writers for centuries. A new-found respect for antiquities and excavations in the early modern period by Europeans and Egyptians led to the scientific investigation of Egyptian civilization and a greater appreciation of its cultural legacy; the Nile has been the lifeline of its region for much of human history. The fertile floodplain of the Nile gave humans the opportunity to develop a settled agricultural economy and a more sophisticated, centralized society that became a cornerstone in the history of human civilization. Nomadic modern human hunter-gatherers began living in the Nile valley through the end of the Middle Pleistocene some 120,000 years ago. By the late Paleolithic period, the arid climate of Northern Africa became hot and dry, forcing the populations of the area to concentrate along the river region.
In Predynastic and Early Dynastic times, the Egyptian climate was much less arid. Large regions of Egypt were traversed by herds of grazing ungulates. Foliage and fauna were far more prolific in all environs and the Nile region supported large populations of waterfowl. Hunting would have been common for Egyptians, this is the period when many animals were first domesticated. By about 5500 BC, small tribes living in the Nile valley had developed into a series of cultures demonstrating firm control of agriculture and animal husbandry, identifiable by their pottery and personal items, such as combs and beads; the largest of these early cultures in upper Egypt was the Badari, which originated in the Western Desert. The Badari was followed by the Amratian and Gerzeh cultures, which brought a number of technological improvements; as early as the Naqada I Period, predynastic Egyptians imported obsidian from Ethiopia, used to shape blades and other objects from flakes. In Naqada II times, early evidence exists of contact with the Near East Canaan and the Byblos coast.
Over a period of about 1,000 years, the Naqada culture developed from a few small farming communities into a powerful civilization whose leaders were in complete control of the people and resources of the Nile valley. Establishing a power center at Nekhen, at Abydos, Naqada III leaders expanded their control of Egypt northwards along the Nile, they traded with Nubia to the south, the oases of the western desert to the west, the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean and Near East to the east, initiating a period of Egypt-Mesopotamia relations. The Naqada culture manufactured a diverse selection of material goods, reflective of the increasing power and wealth of the elite, as well as societal personal-use items, which included combs, small statuary, painted pottery, high quality decorative stone vases, cosmetic palettes, jewelry made of gold and ivory, they developed a ceramic glaze known as faience, used well into the Roman Per
Jewellery or jewelry consists of small decorative items worn for personal adornment, such as brooches, necklaces, pendants and cufflinks. Jewellery may be attached to the clothes. From a western perspective, the term is restricted to durable ornaments, excluding flowers for example. For many centuries metal combined with gemstones, has been the normal material for jewellery, but other materials such as shells and other plant materials may be used, it is one of the oldest type of archaeological artefact – with 100,000-year-old beads made from Nassarius shells thought to be the oldest known jewellery. The basic forms of jewellery vary between cultures but are extremely long-lived. Jewellery may be made from a wide range of materials. Gemstones and similar materials such as amber and coral, precious metals and shells have been used, enamel has been important. In most cultures jewellery can be understood as a status symbol, for its material properties, its patterns, or for meaningful symbols. Jewellery has been made to adorn nearly every body part, from hairpins to toe rings, genital jewellery.
The patterns of wearing jewellery between the sexes, by children and older people can vary between cultures, but adult women have been the most consistent wearers of jewellery. The word jewellery itself is derived from the word jewel, anglicised from the Old French "jouel", beyond that, to the Latin word "jocale", meaning plaything. In British English, Indian English, New Zealand English, Hiberno-English, Australian English, South African English it is spelled jewellery, while the spelling is jewelry in American English. Both are used in Canadian English. In French and a few other European languages the equivalent term, may cover decorated metalwork in precious metal such as objets d'art and church items, not just objects worn on the person. Humans have used jewellery for a number of different reasons: functional to fix clothing or hair in place as a marker of social status and personal status, as with a wedding ring as a signifier of some form of affiliation, whether ethnic, religious or social to provide talismanic protection as an artistic display as a carrier or symbol of personal meaning – such as love, mourning, or luckMost cultures at some point have had a practice of keeping large amounts of wealth stored in the form of jewellery.
Numerous cultures store wedding dowries in the form of jewellery or make jewellery as a means to store or display coins. Alternatively, jewellery has been used as a trade good. Many items of jewellery, such as brooches and buckles, originated as purely functional items, but evolved into decorative items as their functional requirement diminished. Jewellery can symbolise group membership or status. Wearing of amulets and devotional medals to provide protection or ward off evil is common in some cultures; these may take the form of symbols, plants, body parts, or glyphs. In creating jewellery, coins, or other precious items are used, they are set into precious metals. Platinum alloys range from 900 to 950; the silver used in jewellery is sterling silver, or 92.5% fine silver. In costume jewellery, stainless steel findings are sometimes used. Other used materials include glass, such as fused-glass or enamel. However, any inclusion of lead or lead solder will give a British Assay office the right to destroy the piece, however it is rare for the assay office to do so.
Beads are used in jewellery. These may be made of glass, metal, shells and polymer clay. Beaded jewellery encompasses necklaces, earrings and rings. Beads may be small. Seed beads are used in an embroidery technique where they are sewn onto fabric backings to create broad collar neck pieces and beaded bracelets. Bead embroidery, a popular type of handwork during the Victorian era, is enjoying a renaissance in modern jewellery making. Beading, or beadwork, is very popular in many African and indigenous North American cultures. Silversmiths and lapidaries methods include forging, soldering or welding, carving and "cold-joining". Diamonds were first mined in India. Pliny may have mentioned them, although there is some debate as to the exact nature of the stone he referred to as Adamas. Ther
The Innu are the Indigenous inhabitants of an area in Canada they refer to as Nitassinan, which comprises most of the northeastern portion of the present-day province of Quebec and some eastern portions of Labrador. Their ancestors were known to have lived on these lands for several thousand years as hunter-gatherers, they used portable tents made of animal skins. Their subsistence activities were centred on hunting and trapping caribou, moose and small game; some coastal clans practised agriculture and managed maple sugarbush. Their language, Innu or Ilnu, is spoken with certain dialect differences, it is part of the Cree language group, is unrelated to neighboring Inuit languages. In 1999, Survival International published a study of the Innu communities of Labrador, it assessed the adverse effects of the Canadian government's relocating the people far from their ancestral lands and preventing them from practising their ancient way of life. The people are classified into two groups: the Neenoilno called by Europeans as Montagnais, or Innu proper, who live along the north shore of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, in Quebec.
The Innu recognize several distinctions based on different regional affiliations and speakers of various dialects of the Innu language. The word Naskapi was first recorded by French colonists in the 17th century and was subsequently applied to distant Innu groups beyond the reach of missionary influence, it was applied to those people living in the lands that bordered Ungava Bay and the northern Labrador coast, near the Inuit communities of northern Quebec and northern Labrador. It is here; the Naskapi are traditionally nomadic peoples, in contrast with the more sedentary Montagnais, who establish settled territories. Mushuau Innuat, while related to the Naskapi, split off from the tribe in the 1900s, they were subject to a government relocation program at Davis Inlet. Some of the families of the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach have close relatives in the Cree village of Whapmagoostui, on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay. Since 1990, the Montagnais people have chosen to be referred to as the Innu, which means human being in Innu-aimun, while the Naskapi have continued to use the word Naskapi.
The Norsemen referred to the Innu as skrælingjar in Greenlandic Norse. They referred to Nitassinan as Markland; the Innu were allied with neighbouring Atikamekw and Algonquin against their enemies, the Algonquian-speaking Mi'kmaq and Iroquois nations. During the Beaver Wars, the Iroquois invaded their territories from areas near the Great Lakes, enslaving women and young warriors, plundering their hunting grounds in search of more furs. Since these raids were made by the Iroquois with unprecedented brutality, the Innu themselves adopted the torment and cruelty of their enemies; the Naskapi, on the other hand, were in conflicts with the southward advancing Inuit in the east. Samuel de Champlain befriended members of this group who insisted that he help them in their conflict with the Iroquois, who were ranging north from their traditional territory around the Great Lakes in present-day New York and Pennsylvania. On July 29, 1609, at Ticonderoga or Crown Point, New York and his party encountered a group of Iroquois Mohawk, who were the easternmost tribe of the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.
A battle began the next day. Two hundred Iroquois advanced on Champlain's position as a native guide pointed out the three Iroquois chiefs to the French. Champlain fired his arquebus and legend says he killed two of them with one shot before one of his men killed the third; the Iroquois supposedly turned and fled. This was to set the tone for French-Iroquois relations for the next 100 years; the Innu of Labrador and those living on the north shore of the Gulf of Saint-Lawrence in the Canadian Shield region have never surrendered their territory to Canada by way of treaty or other agreement. As European-Canadians began widespread forest and mining operations at the turn of the 20th century, the Innu became settled in coastal communities and in the interior of Quebec; the Canadian and provincial governments, the Catholic and Anglican churches, all encouraged the Innu to settle in more permanent, majority-style communities, in the belief that their lives would improve with this adaptation. This coercive assimilation caused a decline in the Innu people's traditional activities.
Because of these social disruptions and the systemic disadvantages faced by Indigenous peoples, community life in the permanent settlements became associated with high levels of substance abuse, domestic violence, suicide. In 1999, Survival International published a study of the Innu communities of Labrador, it assessed the adverse effects of the Canadian government's relocating the people far from their ancestral lands and preventing them from practising their ancient way of life. Survival International considered these policies to violate international law in human rights, drawing parallels with the treatment of Tibetans by the People's Republic of China. According to the study, from 1990–1997, the Innu community of Davis Inlet had a suicide rate more than twelve times the Canadian average, well over three times the rat
The Miꞌkmaq or Miꞌgmaq are a First Nations people indigenous to Canada's Atlantic Provinces and the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec as well as the northeastern region of Maine. They call their national territory Miꞌkmaꞌki; the nation has a population of about 170,000, of whom nearly 11,000 speak Miꞌkmaq, an Eastern Algonquian language. Once written in Miꞌkmaq hieroglyphic writing, it is now written using most letters of the Latin alphabet; the Santé Mawiómi, or Grand Council, was the traditional senior level of government for the Miꞌkmaq people until Canada passed the Indian Act to require First Nations to establish representative elected governments. After implementation of the Indian Act, the Grand Council took on a more spiritual function; the Grand Council was made up of chiefs of the seven district councils of Miꞌkmaꞌki. In 2011, the Government of Canada announced recognition to a group in Newfoundland and Labrador called the Qalipu First Nation; the new band, landless, had accepted 25,000 applications to become part of the band by October 2012.
In total over 100,000 applications were sent in to join the Qalipu, equivalent of 1/5 of the province's population. The Qalipu band's Miꞌkmaq heritage has been considered illegitimate by several Miꞌkmaq institutions, including the Grand Council; the ethnonym has traditionally been spelled Micmac in English. The people themselves have used different spellings: Miꞌkmaq in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland; until the 1980s, "Micmac" remained the most common spelling in English. Although still referred to, this spelling has fallen out of favour in recent years. Most scholarly publications now use the spelling Miꞌkmaq, as preferred by the people; the media have adopted this spelling practice, acknowledging that the Miꞌkmaq consider the spelling Micmac as "colonially tainted". The Miꞌkmaq prefer to use one of the three current Miꞌkmaq orthographies. Lnu is the term the Miꞌkmaq use for themselves, their autonym, meaning "human being" or "the people". Various explanations exist for the origin of the term Miꞌkmaq.
The Miꞌkmaw Resource Guide says that "Miꞌkmaq" means "the family": The definite article "the" suggests that "Miꞌkmaq" is the undeclined form indicated by the initial letter "m". When declined in the singular it reduces to the following forms: nikmaq - my family; the variant form Miꞌkmaw plays two grammatical roles: 1) It is the singular of Miꞌkmaq and 2) it is an adjective in circumstances where it precedes a noun The Anishinaabe refer to the Miꞌkmaq as Miijimaa, meaning "The Brother/Ally", with the use of the nX prefix m-, opposed to the use of n1 prefix n- or the n3 prefix w-. Other hypotheses include the following: The name "Micmac" was first recorded in a memoir by de La Chesnaye in 1676. Professor Ganong in a footnote to the word megamingo, as used by Marc Lescarbot, remarked "that it is altogether probable that in this word lies the origin of the name Micmac." As suggested in this paper on the customs and beliefs of the Micmacs, it would seem that megumaagee the name used by the Micmacs, or the Megumawaach, as they called themselves, for their land, is from the words megwaak, "red", magumegek, "on the earth", or as Rand recorded, "red on the earth", megakumegek, "red ground", "red earth".
The Micmacs must have thought of themselves as the Red Earth People, or the People of the Red Earth. Others seeking a meaning for the word Micmac have suggested that it is from nigumaach, my brother, my friend, a word, used as a term of endearment by a husband for his wife... Still another explanation for the word Micmac suggested by Stansbury Hagar in "Micmac Magic and Medicine" is that the word megumawaach is from megumoowesoo, the name of the Micmacs' legendary master magicians, from whom the earliest Micmac wizards are said to have received their power. Members of the Miꞌkmaq referred to themselves as Lnu, but used the term níkmaq as a greeting; the French referred to the Miꞌkmaq as Souriquois and as Gaspesiens, or Mickmakis. The British referred to them as Tarrantines. Archaeologist Dean Snow says that the deep linguistic split between the Miꞌkmaq and the Eastern Algonquians to the southwest suggests the Miꞌkmaq developed an independent prehistoric sequence in their territory, it emphasized maritime orientation, as the area had few major river systems.
According to ethnologist T. J. Brasser, as the indigenous people lived in a climate unfavorable for agriculture, small semi-nomadic bands of a few patrilineally related families subsisted on fishing and hunting. Developed leadership did not extend beyond hunting parties; the Miꞌkmaq lived in an annual cycle of seasonal movement between living in dispersed interior winter camps and larger coastal communities during the summer. The spawning runs of March began, they next harvested spawning herring, gathered waterfowl eggs, hunted geese. By May, the seashore offered abundant cod and shellfish, coastal breezes brought relief from the biting black flies, stouts and mosquitoes of the interior. Autumn frost killed the biti
Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in modern days corresponding to most of Iraq, parts of Northern Saudi Arabia, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey, regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders. The Sumerians and Akkadians dominated Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, when it was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire, it fell to Alexander the Great in 332 BC, after his death, it became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire. Around 150 BC, Mesopotamia was under the control of the Parthian Empire. Mesopotamia became a battleground between the Romans and Parthians, with western parts of Mesopotamia coming under ephemeral Roman control. In AD 226, the eastern regions of Mesopotamia fell to the Sassanid Persians; the division of Mesopotamia between Roman and Sassanid Empires lasted until the 7th century Muslim conquest of Persia of the Sasanian Empire and Muslim conquest of the Levant from Byzantines.
A number of neo-Assyrian and Christian native Mesopotamian states existed between the 1st century BC and 3rd century AD, including Adiabene and Hatra. Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC, it has been identified as having "inspired some of the most important developments in human history including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops and the development of cursive script, mathematics and agriculture". The regional toponym Mesopotamia comes from the ancient Greek root words μέσος "middle" and ποταμός "river" and translates to " between two/the rivers", it is used throughout the Greek Septuagint to translate the Aramaic equivalent Naharaim. An earlier Greek usage of the name Mesopotamia is evident from The Anabasis of Alexander, written in the late 2nd century AD, but refers to sources from the time of Alexander the Great. In the Anabasis, Mesopotamia was used to designate the land east of the Euphrates in north Syria.
The Aramaic term biritum/birit narim corresponded to a similar geographical concept. The term Mesopotamia was more applied to all the lands between the Euphrates and the Tigris, thereby incorporating not only parts of Syria but almost all of Iraq and southeastern Turkey; the neighbouring steppes to the west of the Euphrates and the western part of the Zagros Mountains are often included under the wider term Mesopotamia. A further distinction is made between Northern or Upper Mesopotamia and Southern or Lower Mesopotamia. Upper Mesopotamia known as the Jazira, is the area between the Euphrates and the Tigris from their sources down to Baghdad. Lower Mesopotamia is the area from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf and includes Kuwait and parts of western Iran. In modern academic usage, the term Mesopotamia also has a chronological connotation, it is used to designate the area until the Muslim conquests, with names like Syria and Iraq being used to describe the region after that date. It has been argued that these euphemisms are Eurocentric terms attributed to the region in the midst of various 19th-century Western encroachments.
Mesopotamia encompasses the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, both of which have their headwaters in the Taurus Mountains. Both rivers are fed by numerous tributaries, the entire river system drains a vast mountainous region. Overland routes in Mesopotamia follow the Euphrates because the banks of the Tigris are steep and difficult; the climate of the region is semi-arid with a vast desert expanse in the north which gives way to a 15,000-square-kilometre region of marshes, mud flats, reed banks in the south. In the extreme south, the Euphrates and the Tigris empty into the Persian Gulf; the arid environment which ranges from the northern areas of rain-fed agriculture to the south where irrigation of agriculture is essential if a surplus energy returned on energy invested is to be obtained. This irrigation is aided by a high water table and by melting snows from the high peaks of the northern Zagros Mountains and from the Armenian Highlands, the source of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that give the region its name.
The usefulness of irrigation depends upon the ability to mobilize sufficient labor for the construction and maintenance of canals, this, from the earliest period, has assisted the development of urban settlements and centralized systems of political authority. Agriculture throughout the region has been supplemented by nomadic pastoralism, where tent-dwelling nomads herded sheep and goats from the river pastures in the dry summer months, out into seasonal grazing lands on the desert fringe in the wet winter season; the area is lacking in building stone, precious metals and timber, so has relied upon long-distance trade of agricultural products to secure these items from outlying areas. In the marshlands to the south of the area, a complex water-borne fishing culture has existed since prehistoric times, has added to the cultural mix. Periodic breakdowns in the cultural system have occurred for a number of reasons; the demands for labor has from time to time led to population increases that push the limits of the ecological carrying capacity, should a period of climatic instability ensue, collapsing central government a
The term Ursulines refers to a number of religious institutes of the Catholic Church. The best known group was founded in 1535 at Brescia, Italy, by Angela Merici, for the education of girls and the care of the sick and needy, their patron saint is Saint Ursula. They are divided into two branches, one being the monastic Order of St. Ursula, among whom the largest group is the Ursulines of the Roman Union, described in this article; the other branch is the Company of St. Ursula called the "Angelines", who follow the original form of life established by their foundress. Merici, a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, was a woman of deep mystical belief, which she combined with the service of the poor and needy, she believed. From men and women who labored with her, she selected 28 women who wished to commit their lives to this endeavor; these women, along with Merici, made a commitment of their lives to the service of the church and of the poor on 25 November 1535, the feast day of Catherine of Alexandria, a major female spiritual figure in the Middle Ages.
The women called themselves the Company of St. Ursula, taking as their patroness the medieval patron saint of education. Continuing to live in their family homes, they would meet for conferences and prayer in common. Merici drew up a Rule of Life for them. In 1538 the company held its first General Chapter. In 1539 she added a book of Counsels to regulate the life of the group. Merici's vision was that they were to live among the people they served without any distinguishing feature, such as a religious habit; the company grew being joined by women from throughout her hometown of Desenzano. They came to be organized in groups, according to the parish in which they lived, the company spread throughout the Diocese of Brescia. One of the early works of the new Company was to give religious instruction to the girls of the town at the parish church each Sunday, an innovation for the period, having traditionally been left to the local parish priest, their work spread to other dioceses in the region. Angela Merici died on 27 January 1540.
The company was formally recognized in 1546 by Pope Paul III. Merici's death in 1540, had left the company without a clear leader. Organized loosely, questions about their future began to surface. Additionally, pressure began to come from the officials of the church, who were uncomfortable with a group of consecrated women living independently, not under the direct authority of the clergy. In 1572 in Milan, at the insistence of Charles Borromeo, the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, the Ursulines agreed to become an enclosed religious order. Pope Gregory XIII approved this step, putting them under the Rule of St. Augustine, in place of Merici's rule. In France, groups of the company begin to re-shape themselves as cloistered nuns, under solemn vows, dedicated to the education of girls within the walls of their monasteries. In the following century, the Ursuline nuns were encouraged and supported by Francis de Sales, they were called the "Ursuline nuns" as distinct from the "federated Ursulines" of the company, who preferred to follow the original way of life.
Both forms of life continued to spread throughout Europe and beyond. At the beginning of the 18th century, the period of its greatest growth, the order was represented by 20 congregations, 350 convents and from 15,000 to 20,000 nuns; the Ursuline sisters were not the first Catholic nuns to land in the new world. They were preceded by the Heironymite order in 1585 in Mexico City, who established the convent of San Jerónimo y Santa Paula. In 1639, Mother Marie of the Incarnation, two other Ursuline nuns, a Jesuit priest left France for a mission to Canada; when they arrived in the summer of 1639, they studied the languages of the native peoples and began to educate the native children. They taught reading and writing as well as needlework, embroidery and other domestic arts; the Ursuline convent in Quebec City is the oldest educational institution for women in North America. Their work helped to preserve a religious spirit among the French population and to Christianize native peoples and Métis.
The first Ursulines arrived at Mobile, Alabama, in 1719. In 1727, 12 Ursulines from France landed in; the entire group of Ursulines were the first Roman Catholic nuns in. Both properties were part of the French colony of Louisiana, they came to the country under the sanctions of Pope Pius Louis XV of France. Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, their charter came under the jurisdiction of the United States, they instituted a school, both of which continue today. Ursuline Academy is the oldest continually operating Catholic school in the United States and the oldest girls school in the United States; the Ursuline tradition holds many United States firsts in its dedication to the growth of individuals, including the first female pharmacist, first woman to contribute a book of literary merit, first convent, first free school and first retreat center for ladies, first classes for female slaves, free women of color and Native Americans. In the Mississippi Valley region, Ursuline provided the first social welfare center.
The Old Ursuline Convent is located in the Vieux Carre. It is the oldest building in the Mississippi River Valley; the building now houses the Archdiocese of New Orleans' Archives as