Marguerite d’Youville, (1701-1771) The Grey Nuns


Maison de Mère D'Youville (It was in this room that Marguerite d'Youville served soup to the poor people of the city)
138 Saint-Pierre Montreal, QC H2Y 2L7

When Marguerite d’Youville was fifteen, she used her handicrafts in order to earn income to provide food for her brothers and sisters. As a young adult, when she renounced her deceased husband’s estate, she demonstrated her entrepreneurial propensity by opening a small craft shop so that she and her children could thrive. Later Marguerite partnered with several other women to not only share the care of their families but also to have impact in their community in a world not yet open to women having civic purpose. These creative, smart, and business savvy women used their own resources and later adopted a religious affiliation (The Grey Nuns) in order to create safe and welcoming spaces abandoned children, the elderly, and others with differing abilities that were neglected by society. Before the women were stigmatized as the “tipsy sisters” in 1730, they were homemakers, mothers and widows. The women used every creative means, especially their sewing, to fund Canada’s first pubic homeplace, a welcoming place of refuge. Funds were requested from the king of France and then when necessary, the king of England, (because loyalty was trumped only by their vision), donations and materials from their surrounding community were exchanged, an apple orchard planted, gardens to grow necessary food and plants for craft making. Their entrepreneurial spirit, led by Mother D’Youville made the solidarity work possible.

“Article 1: The Lady Widow Youville and her Companions shall be and shall remain responsible for the direction and administration of the said hospital of Montreal, to which end We have substituted and do substitute them for the Brothers Hospitallers who heretofore been established there, and We desire that they enjoy the rights, privileges, exemptions, and prerogatives contained in the said letters patent of the fifteenth day of April, sixteen hundred and ninety-four, relating to the said institution.” From Letters Patent of 1753 (Ferland-Angers, 2000, p.316).

A tent and uniform making and candle business was established to earn income for the successful management of the General Hospital of Montreal. (Not to be confused with the medical hospital toady with the same name. “The word ‘hospital’ is used in its older English sense, meaning a shelter or place of refuge for those in need” Ferland-Angers 2000). 


Ferland-Angers, A. (2000). Mother D’Youville: First Canadian Foundress. Montreal: Sisters of Charity, Grey Nuns.


Website designed and maintained by Percolab