The life of Marie-Angélique Memmie Le Blanc was marked by pain, wealth, and the burdens of fame. Originally a Sioux from present-day Wisconsin, she became a feral child after escaping a French slave ship. When she was found by a French village years later, her notoriety helped her rise through the ranks of 18th-century French society until she was an accepted and respected member of the aristocracy. Throughout her life, she would be known by several monikers, most notably The Wild Girl of Champagne, The Maid of Châlons, and The Wild Child of Songy.
Memmie Le Blanc was still a teenager when she was found in a wooded area outside Songy, a village in the French countryside. She had somehow managed to survive for years on her own by hunting for her own food. While most feral children are irrevocably changed by their environment and lack of socialization, Le Blanc managed to gradually adjust to the conventions and expectations of French culture.
After she was found and integrated into society, she learned the communication and etiquette of the French aristocracy. Her bittersweet story of isolation, assimilation, and transition provides insight not only into the resilience of human nature, but the intricacies and eccentricities of human civilization.
Villagers spotted Memmie in one of Songy's adjacent orchards in 1731. For unknown reasons, they sent a bulldog to approach her and bring her to the village.
The feral girl, frightened by the unfamiliar creature, defended herself, dealing the animal a fatal blow to the head. She then climbed a tree, leaped between the branches, and escaped into the woods.
Following this audacious display, Monsieur d'Epinay, a Songy nobleman, demanded that she be found. Though sources differ on her age upon capture, she is estimated to have been between 10 and 18 years old.
When the villagers finally captured Le Blanc, they quickly learned she didn't speak French – or any formal language. They offered her a rabbit, which she skinned and ate raw. This was her learned method of survival, which she also employed with squirrels, foxes, and other small creatures.
Although Le Blanc was able to feed herself, she was unable to communicate with the villagers. While they initially thought she was African because of her dark skin, they discovered after bathing her that, underneath the layers of years-old, caked-on dirt and paint, her skin was actually quite pale.
After Leblanc was discovered by the villagers in Songy, she was moved to St. Maur, a hospital in Chalons. After a period of adjustment, she was baptized and given a name, Marie-Angélique Memmie Le Blanc, by the Roman Catholic Church.
When doctors attempted to change her diet from raw meat to cooked food and wine, she not only became extremely sick, but her teeth fell out. Although she eventually recovered, she was never perfectly healthy.
Although the French villagers believed she was white because of her fair skin, according to modern scholars, Le Blanc was actually Native American, specifically a Sioux. Prior to her time in France, she resided somewhere near what is now Wisconsin.
At the age of seven or eight, her skin was painted black, and she was sold as a slave to a French woman. Some sources claim that the vessel taking her to France shipwrecked, and after she and another girl washed ashore, they were forced to resort to feral measures in order to survive.
Le Blanc lived undiscovered in the French wilderness for over a decade.