M2003.17.1 | Register. W.C.T.U. Sheltering Home

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Register. W.C.T.U. Sheltering Home
1887-1897, 19th century
Ink on paper
21 x 33.5 cm
Gift of Mr. Vaughan Reid in memory of Mary Jean Butler Reid
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Register (1)
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Keys to History

This register recorded the names of boarders who passed through a Montreal women's shelter, run by the local chapter of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The log documents the first ten years (1887-1897) of this protestant refuge, located in the heart of a rapidly urbanizing city. Run by Miss E.G. Barber, and then later by Miss A. Montgomery, the shelter operated at least until 1910. Recorded information sheds light on the lives of women from less fortunate circumstances, and bears witness to the important care-giving activities of charitable organizations that, like this one, served in a time when social services were virtually non-existent.

Most of the women who took refuge in this shelter were listed as "servants" and, in all likelihood, were individuals with no where else to turn. The personal information recorded by the matrons in the register clearly shows that this building sheltered women and their children from a variety of circumstances. The doors were opened to the homeless, pregnant women, prostitutes, the physically or mentally ill, as well as women who were entering or exiting the legal system. An individual's length of stay at the shelter could last from one night to several weeks and, in some cases, even years.

In addition to their Montreal shelter, the WCTU operated several "free libraries" and reading rooms during this period. The union considered women to be pillars of morality with an ethical obligation to work for the betterment of society, a view that led the organization to fight for universal suffrage. The WCTU viewed the family and the home as sacred institutions that were being threatened by rapid social change. As such, they waged campaigns against the ills of gambling, smoking, alcohol, and prostitution.

  • What

    This handwritten register contains 3,101 entries, each a brief account of the personal information of an individual boarder. Most of the women are listed as Protestant, although Roman Catholics were also admitted. People of all ages were lodged at the shelter, and some boarders were registered as "coloured".

  • Where

    This shelter was listed at 562-564 Dorchester Street in the Lovell's Directory. It remained at this location until 1892 when it moved to 92 St. Urbain Street. It appears to have relocated once again in 1910-this time to 152 St. Urbain Street.

  • When

    The WCTU was founded in the United States in 1873. Canada opened its first "Union" in Ontario in 1874, and the organization quickly spread across the country and contributed to the founding of the International Council of Women in 1893.

  • Who

    The page shown here is dated June 17, 1887. The name on the first entry, "Annie Sullivan", is accompanied by the following information: Profession: Servant; Last Residence: Montreal; Place of Birth: Ireland; Religion: Protestant; Where Received From: Mrs. McLean; When and How Fallen: Taken in for shelter; Left: August 11; Where to: General Hospital; Conduct: Quiet no trouble; Observation: In consumption.