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The Grey Nuns Sisters of Charity

Mother Superior Marie Louise Valade, age 35
Sister Marie Margaret Eulalie Lagrave, age 36
Sister Marie Hedwidge Lafrance, age 26
Sister Gertrude Coutlée (Sister St. Joseph), age 24

'Go to the Grey Nuns. They will help you'.

The first group of Grey Nuns (Sisters Valade, Lagrave, Coutlée and Lafrance) traveled from Montreal to St. Boniface by canoe, arriving on June 21, 1844. Members of the order of the Sisters of Charity, they were devoted to bringing education and medical services to the inhabitants of the area. Sister Lagrave was a trained nurse and was responsible for providing medical care and coordinating any expansion of health services required. Sister Lagrave began to minister to the needs of the sick by making home visits in a Red River cart or horse-drawn sleigh.

If one hears that anyone has a cold, even though he lives at the far end of the parish, the sisters must send you mustard for the feet, brew strong bouillon for the kidneys in such quantities that the hundred odd hens of Monseigneur cannot suffice to produce the eggs employed in making this delicious beverage. The pleasure of
doctoring for the good sisters is such that it is to give them happiness as much as to provide them with the opportunity of curing us.

The original four nuns provided home nursing services for many years. Their first decade of service saw 6,000 visits made to assist the sick wherever they were to be found. They also provided compassionate care and refuge to those in need who visited them at their convent in St. Boniface (which now serves as the St. Boniface Museum). Joined by other women from the order in later years, the Grey Nuns at St. Boniface established the first hospital in the area in 1871, building a larger facility in 1877, and again in 1907.

  1. King, Dennis. The Grey Nuns and the Red River Settlement. Agincourt, The Book Society of Canada, Ltd., 1980, pp. 38-39.

Additional Reading

"The Grey Nuns and the Red River Settlement." Manitoba History v. 11 (Spring 1986): 12-14.

King, Dennis. Les Soeurs grises et la colonie de la rivière Rouge, traduction française par Sylvie Léger. Agincourt, Ont.: Société canadienne du livre, 1983.

King, Dennis. The Grey Nuns and the Red River Settlement. Agincourt, Ont.: Book Society of Canada, 1980.

Macleod, Margaret Arnett. "The Kidnapping of Sister Ste. Therese." Manitoba Pageant (April 1957): 8-14.

Mitchell, E. The Grey Nuns of Montréal at the Red River, 1844-1984, 1987.

Mitchell, E. Les Soeurs Grises de Montréal à la Rivière-Rouge, 1844-1984, 1986.

Murphy, Sister Mary. St. Boniface Heroines of Mercy. Muenster, Saskatchewan: St. Peter’s Press, 1944. (Located in Elizabeth Dafoe Library Archives, University of Manitoba, Call number BX 4366 Z5 M35)

Murphy, Sister Mary. "The Grey Nuns Travel West." Manitoba Pageant, no. 1 (1944-45): 3-13.

Cover. Murphy, Sister Mary. St. Boniface Heroines of Mercy. Muenster, Saskatchewan: St. Peter's Press, 1944.

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