12. Congregation of the Sisters of Misericorde, Montreal, Quebec Canada
The Congregation of the Sisters of Miseriocorde provided assistance to “unfortunate girls.” Begun by a midwife in 1848, the sisters were trained nurses and midwives, and took vows to serve “poor, single mothers” after giving birth. The sigma that unmarried women suffered when faced with pregnancy or motherhood lasted a lifetime. Many women suffered “irreparable infamy” and could be turned out by family, refused respectable employment, and evicted from their living situation. Essentially there were no options for an unwed mother to care for herself and her baby.
The Sisters insisted on providing a home, food, and an education for these “fallen women.” In exchange, the women were forced to work long hours washing, drying, and pressing linens for nearby hotels, residents, and even the nuns and priests. As the mothers labored in the laundry, orphaned girls cared for the newborn infants. Once the infants were strong, many were adopted out to respectable families. Due to the discrete nature of the Sisters and what happened in the home, residents of Montreal declared that the nuns were simply promoting promiscuity and “encouraging vice” as they were not making a public example of the inmates.