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© McCord Museum
Hand puppet
1959-1973, 20th century
56 x 16.5 cm
Gift of Mme Hélène Baillargeon-Côté
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Through a mixture of games, stories and songs, the bilingual television program Chez Hélène gave English-speaking preschoolers an opportunity to learn French. In the 1950s, renowned Montreal neurosurgeon Dr. Wilder Penfield (1891-1976) discovered that learning a second language was much easier between the ages of three and seven. The Tan-Gau second-language teaching method, developed by Tan Gwan Leang and Robert Gauthier, was used on the program. The character Hélène spoke almost solely in French on the program.

Later, in the 1960s, researchers explored ways of using the popularity and entertainment attraction of television to improve children's literacy and promote learning.


This hand puppet, which was brought to life by Charlotte Fielden, played the role of the mouse Suzie, one of the main characters in the program Chez Hélène, along with host Hélène Baillargeon-Côté and her young friend Louise, played by Madeleine Kronby.


Chez Hélène was initially broadcast in the afternoons, at 2:15, on CBC television, then called CBMT; in October 1963 it was moved to a weekday morning time slot.


The first Canadian television program was broadcast in 1952, in black and white, of course. Colour broadcasting did not start until 1967.


Hélène Baillargeon-Côté was born in St. Martin de Beauce, Quebec, in 1916. A well-known folklorist and singer, she hosted a number of radio and TV programs on both the French and English networks of the CBC, including the program to which she lent her name, Chez Hélène.

© Musée McCord Museum