Ladies’ Protestant Home Plaque - c. 1860s

Ladies’ Protestant Home Plaque
Organization: Jeffery Hale Community Services
Address: 1250 chemin Sainte-Foy, Quebec, QC G1S 2M6
Region: Quebec City Region
Contact: Richard Walling, rwalling(a)
Description: Engraved brass plaque mounted on wood. It was once the name plate on the front door of the Ladies’ Protestant Home.
Year made: circa 1860s
Made by: Unknown
Materials/Medium: Brass and oak wood
Colours: Brass and cherry (wood)
Provenance: Quebec City
Size: 81 cm x 18 cm
Photos: Rachel Garber. Courtesy Jeffery Hale Community Services

Ladies’ Protestant Home Plaque

Brenda Hartwell

The Ladies’ Protestant Home, established in 1859, was a charitable institution designed to help “destitute and unprotected women and female children of all Protestant denominations, in the city of Quebec.” Certainly, there was great need in the city at that time.

Quebec City’s population ballooned from 5,000 at the beginning of the 19th century to 57,000 by the 1860s. This growth was due, in large part, to a great influx of immigrants from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. “In 1861, the Irish population of Quebec City was one third of the total population” … “and 51% of Quebec City’s population was English speaking” (OCOL). Some were wealthy entrepreneurs seeking opportunities in the New World, but most were impoverished immigrants, forced to leave their homeland because of famine, lack of employment and poverty.

Working conditions in the New World were harsh. Domestic servants worked an average of 15 hours a day, and there were no laws against child labour or laws regulating health and safety conditions in the workplace until the 1885 Quebec Factories Act. Men, women and children worked many hard hours, sometimes under dangerous conditions, for little pay, and there was no public social security program.

Cholera and Typhus epidemics killed thousands on their journey across the Atlantic, and appalling sanitation conditions in the slums of Saint Roch triggered further disease. Families were decimated and hundreds were orphaned or widowed. Destitute women and children roamed the city streets, with few options other than prison, prostitution or death.

To alleviate the cruel conditions faced by women and children, the “Ladies Quebec Protestant Relief Society” was formed on November 20, 1855. “The benevolent mission of this society was to visit and relieve the wants of the Protestant poor of the city. It was begun on a very humble scale, by Mrs. Carden, Mrs. W. Newton, Mrs. S. Newton, Mrs. S. Newton, Mrs. Knight, Mrs. Puffer, Mrs. Maxfield Sheppard, Mrs. Archibald Campbell, Mrs. James Bankier, and Miss H. Newton” (Le Moine, p. 386). These ladies initially provided wood, food, and clothing to destitute Protestants, but through their interactions with the needy, they realized that a refuge was sorely needed, so they expanded their mission and set up a home in temporary quarters on February 2, 1859. The Ladies’ Protestant Home was officially incorporated on May 4, 1859.

Several gentlemen within the community volunteered to solicit and collect funds necessary for the building of a permanent home. “So successful were they, and so generously were subscriptions bestowed by all the leading members of the Protestant community, that the sum of sixteen thousand dollars was soon at their disposal, and in May, 1863, the Home was completed and occupied” (Le Moine, p. 387). The building, a stately brick structure, was located on St. Louis Road (now Grande Allée) on a healthy site far from the contagion of the slums, on the outskirts of Quebec City. The Home kept dairy cows until 1913, and land on the property was cultivated to provide fruit and vegetables for residents.

The management of the Home must have shocked some in the city. Institutions were generally led by men, with female volunteers assisting in daily operations. In the case of the Ladies’ Protestant Home, the roles were remarkably reversed, with men forming the auxiliary and providing support for fundraising and investment, while the women managed the institution. This prominent public establishment provided a rare opportunity for women to prove that they could be capable and effective managers.

The Ladies’ Protestant Home mission remained unchanged until the 1950s when a new focus was adopted because of broad social change. Labour conditions for women had improved, and research showed that orphans fared better in foster homes than institutions. By 1954, most of the residents at the Home were elderly women. Times continued to change and so did perceptions. As religious practice declined, so did divisions based upon religion, and in 1973 the Home accepted English-speaking Roman Catholics. In 1976, the Home began accepting male applicants, and as Quebec’s English-speaking community became more bilingual, the Home eventually admitted French-speaking residents.

In 1971, the Quebec Ladies’ Home Foundation was incorporated to protect the Home’s assets. Ownership of the Home was transferred to the foundation and donations to the home were directed through the foundation. Donations subsidized workers’ salaries and care for seniors unable to assume the full cost of their care.

The Ladies’ Protestant Home continued to serve the elderly of Quebec City until January 12, 1990, when it was forced to close due to financial difficulties. In 2009, 150 years after the Home opened, the Quebec Ladies Home Foundation transferred its assets to The Jeffery Hale Foundation. This larger foundation is named after philanthropist Jeffery Hale, one of the home’s first benefactors, and its mandate is to finance the health and social service sectors of the city’s English-speaking community.

The bronze plaque engraved with the words “Ladies’ Protestant Home” is an artefact now housed in the Jeffery Hale Community Services building. This plaque symbolizes the spirit of philanthropy characteristic of Quebec’s English-speaking community. Philanthropy literally means “love of humankind” and refers to the giving of time, money and know-how to advance the common good. The Protestant Ladies’ Home certainly embodies this definition.

“Community-based philanthropy has been a driving force in the development and vitality of English-speaking communities in Quebec for over 200 years. It played an integral role in the development of community infrastructure and in providing support for vulnerable populations” (Richardson et al). When a need was identified, rather than relying on religious institutions or government, English speakers traditionally raised money within their community to finance services and construct buildings to house those services.

Driven by core values, vision and commitment to action, English-speaking philanthropists helped shape Quebec City and the province, and many of the institutions they built with private funds have since been used to serve the public good, for both English and French speakers.

(no author named) 2009. Ladies Protestant Home 1859 – 2009, 150 Years of History.
Sir James MacPherson Le Moine. 1876. Quebec, past and present: a history of Quebec, 1608-1876. Quebec: Augustin Coté & Co. (available as an e-book, or can be viewed online).
Government of Canada. Overview of the English-speaking community of Québec City. Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Archives. Date modified 2013-01-15.
Mary Richardson, Shirley Jobson, Ruth Richardson. 2012. Fostering Community Dialogue and Engagement. Report prepared for the Quebec Community Health and Social Services Foundation.

To Learn More
Patrick Donovan and Ashli Hayes, The Ladies Protestant Home: 150 Years of History; Jeffery Hale Foundation, 2010.

Brenda Hartwell is a writer and editor. She lives in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

Richard Walling is Executive Director of the Jeffery Hale Community Partners and Vice President of the Board of Directors of Jeffery Hale – Saint Brigid’s.


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