Religious Sisters: as women in Alberta's History

Essay by Corina5070University, Bachelor's November 2007

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"The Growing Good of the world is partly Dependant on unhistorical acts; And that things are not so ill with you or me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully and rest in unvisited tombs."#Almost without exception, venerable praise is paid to the courageous missionaries who played a fundamental role in the development of the Canadian West. The legacy of men such as Fathers Lacombe, Leduc and Vegreville is acknowledged. Their influence can be realized with a quick glance at a map of the province. Many others, less well known, also contributed considerably to establishing the foundations of the Alberta we known today. The women who worked alongside these missionaries are part of this forgotten group. Their stories are often missing from the chronicles of Alberta's history. The names, Zoë Leblanc-Eméry, Adèle Lamy, and Marie Jacques-Alphonse are unknown to most Albertans.# These three women, and numerous other religious sisters came to Alberta during the early settlement.

They demonstrated great determination, resourcefulness, and courage. As these nuns arrived, they facilitated the development of communities across the province. They built hospitals, schools and charitable organizations that served the citizens of the developing province. The Northwest was full of poverty, disease and isolation. These Religious Women endeavored to build a society that was hospitable for the settlers. They sought to comfort the poor, care for the sick and help build a new communities through education. Virtually ignored are the contributions of these women. Their activity in the province is an example of the history of pioneering women in Alberta.

The remarkable fact about the historiography of women is the common neglect of the subject by historians. Society has traditionally glorified those that acquire great power or wealth. In history, women have seldom been examples of the...