Previously published in Examiner

The very first hospital in Montreal still in existence is called Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal.


Long before the country of Canada, the french settlers in New France which is now Quebec were concerned with medical care for the poor. Medical care was carried out in the very first hospitals and which were mainly charities and other non-profit organizations. In Quebec we had the nuns that operated the hospitals in Montreal and elsewhere. The Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal was the first hospital in Quebec, founded in 1642. Hôtel-Dieu means God’s Hostel, old french, for hospital. Jeanne Mance was the nurse who founded the hospital. The hospital was rebuilt three times during the history of New France and had remained the only French medical institution for 200 years thereafter. Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal still exists today on St. Urban Street.


Jeanne Mance was a laywoman, but the hospital and all other hospitals of New France (first name for Quebec) would be serviced by nuns. Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal was run by the nuns of “Les Religious or Réligieuses Hospitallers of Saint Joseph. ”


Margaret Bourgeoys , was one of the first charity workers. Margaret Bourgeoys was an educator and now the name of the French catholic school commission in Montreal, Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys – Montréal CSMB is named in her honour. Bourgeoys was a teacher, and health practitioner for the poor. She worked with Paul Chomedy De Maisonneuve (1612-1676) and Jeanne Mance in the small colony of New France. Times were hard for these french pioneers and the winters were long and hard. Food sometimes was scarce especially in the winter and the diets were lacking many essential vitamins. Women from France known as les filles du roy, the Kings daughters, They were young single french women who enlisted in the program to come over to Quebec and marry the french fur traders. There about 770 of these courageous young women who came over. These women are the mothers of Quebec, the direct ancestors of the French Canadian women. Quebec life was hard and les filles du roy were not used to pioneer life. Furthermore, the growing colony experienced a population explosion and birthing centers and care for pregnant women had to be set up.