Last Resort: Hospital Care in Canada
Hotel Dieu Hospital, Montreal, QC, about 1865
Anonyme - Anonymous
about 1865, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on card - Albumen process
8 x 5 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Architecture (8646) , medical (125) , Photograph (77678)
Keys to History
In French-language hospitals like the Hôtel-Dieu institutions in Montreal and Quebec City, nursing sisters were central in ministering to both body and soul. But they preferred the latter role, ensuring prayers, masses and other religious rites for the patients' health.
By the 1870s, these hospitals were focusing more on medical treatment and had their own doctors, who made diagnoses and prescribed care and medicine during their daily rounds. Still, the sisters were often responsible for administering the treatments and preparing the medications.
With medical advances, the task became more difficult, as seen in this 1892 note from the sister superior of Notre-Dame Hospital: "In order to save souls, we must resign ourselves to meeting the demands of science."
Montreal's Hôtel-Dieu was the second hospital founded in Canada, shortly after the one in Quebec City. With the Montreal General, it played a major role in the development of medical care.
Originally built at Pointe à Callière, within the walls of the Ville-Marie fort, the Hôtel-Dieu moved to the corner of Saint-Joseph (now Saint-Sulpice) and Saint-Paul streets a few years later. In 1861, it relocated to its present home at the foot of Mount Royal.
Founded in 1642, the same year as the Montreal settlement, the hospital opened its doors in 1644. It was rebuilt in 1645 outside the walls of the fort. With the move to new buildings in 1861, it was able to provide 150 beds for the city's sick.
French nurse Jeanne Mance founded the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Montreal. It was run by the Hospitallers of Saint Joseph nuns until the mid-18th century. The Sisters of Charity, or Grey Nuns, took over in 1747 and ran it until the mid-1900s.