A few months ago my parents and I were sitting and talking about their youth. My dad grew up mostly in Quebec in the Gaspe Region as an Anglophone Protestant. His father died when he was very young, as did his two sisters Diane and Barbra, of tuberculosis, which was rampant in those days. His mum was a nurse and, now a widowed mother (and probably suffering from trauma and grief) she had to earn a living in her profession.
She was offered work as a Nurse in Chalk River, Ontario but she could not bring her remaining children with her under the terms of her employment. So she put them in ‘a home’ as my dad remembered. He remembered some of the name of the home so I decided to look it up. What a surprise we had when we found this:
“Founded in 1859, the Ladies’ Protestant Home was a temporary relief shelter for poor and destitute Protestant women living in Quebec City.”
My dad lived in a Poorhouse!! He lived there for approximately 18 months and has fond memories of living there. He claims he was ‘spoiled’ with attention from all the women. It can be surmised that his mother, my grandmother, probably paid for their stay there as she was gainfully employed. Eventually my dad was moved to another facility as he had developed childhood tuberculosis. He survived along with his remaining sibling.
His mother eventually remarried and took her children back. They moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia when my dad was a teenager, met and married my mum and they have remained in the province for all these years. My dad is now 80 years old.
For all of these years, he did not realize what kind of facility he was living in and then his daughter writes a book about poorhouses in Nova Scotia. Kind of ironic, don’t you think?