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Jeanne Mance

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Foundress of the Montreal Hôtel-Dieu, and one of the first women settlers in Canada, b. at Nogent-le-Roi, Champagne, 1606; d. at Montreal, 19 June, 1673. Born of a family who belonged to the magistracy, she lived with her father, Pierre Mance, procureur du roi (king's attorney) until his death in 1640. In this year she met M. de la Dauversiere, who, with Olier, was actively interested in the foundation of Montreal. For the first time Mlle Mance heard of New France (Canada) and of the women who were going there to consecrate themselves to the spreading of the Faith. She embarked at La Rochelle in June, 1641, with Pere Laplace, a dozen men, and a pious young Dieppe woman. The following (probably 24) August she reached Quebec, and devoted herself during the entire winter to the care of the settlers. They wished to retain her at Quebec, but on 8 May, 1642, she went up the river with M. de Maisonneuve and her early companions, and reached Montreal on 17 May. It was she who decorated the altar on which the first Mass was said in Montreal (18 May, 1642). The same year she founded a hospital in her own home, a very humble one, into which she received the sick, settlers or natives. Two years later (1644) she opened a hospital in Rue St-Paul, which cost 6000 francs — a gift of Mme de Bullion to Jeanne on her departure for Canada — and stood for fifty years. For seventeen years she had sole care of this hospital.

In 1650 she visited France in the interests of the colony, and brought back 22,000 livres of the 60,000 set apart by Mme de Bullion for the foundation of the hospital. On her return to Montreal, finding that without reinforcements the colonists must succumb under the attacks of the Iroquois and the many hardships of their position, she lent the hospital money to M. de Maisonneuve, who proceeded to France and organized a band of one hundred men for the defense of the colony. In 1659 Jeanne made a second trip to France to secure religious to assist her in her work. She had for twenty months been suffering from a fractured wrist badly reduced, but in Paris, while praying at Saint-Sulpice where M. Olier's heart was preserved, she was suddenly cured (2 Feb., 1659) She was so fortunate as to secure three Hospital Sisters of St. Joseph from the convent of La Fleche in Anjou, Judith Moreau de Bresoles, Catherine Mace, and Marie Maillet. They had a rough passage and the plague broke out on board. On their arrival Mgr. de Laval vainly tried to retain the three sisters at Quebec in the community of the Hospital Sisters of St. Augustine. Every obstacle having been overcome they reached Montreal on 17 or 18 October. Jeanne's good work being now fully established, she lived henceforth a more retired life. On her death after a long and painful illness, she was buried in the church of the Hôtel-Dieu, the burning of which in 1696 destroyed at once the remains of the noble woman and the house that she had built. Her work, however, was continued, and two centuries later (1861) the hospital was transferred to the foot of Mount Royal, on the slope which overlooks the city and the river. The Hôtel-Dieu still flourishes, and in 1909 the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of the first three Hospital Sisters (1659) was solemnly celebrated. On the initiative of Mgr. Bruchési, Archbishop of Montreal, a fine monument in bronze on a granite base, by the sculptor Philip Hébert, representing "Jeanne Mance soignant un colon bless é", has been decided on. The hospital contains more than 300 beds. It is estimated that the hospital cared for 82,000 patients between 1760 (date on which Canada was ceded to England ) and 1860; 128,000 patients have been received between 1860 and 1910. A street and a public park in Montreal bear the name of Mance.

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