Medicine Spoon

A porcelain utensil symbolizes nursing sisters’ mission to care for the sick.

Written by Anne-Gaёlle Weber

Posted October 5, 2022

This 19th-century porcelain spoon was used to administer medicine to patients who were unable to sit up and swallow. It speaks to the medical practice of the order of nursing sisters known as the Religieuses Hospitalières de Saint-Joseph de Montréal.

This congregation traces its origins to the Religieuses Hospitalières de Saint-Joseph, founded in 1636 in La Flèche, France. In 1659, the order sent three nuns to Ville-Marie (later Montreal) to support the work of Jeanne Mance, who had established the city’s first hospital in 1644.

From the beginning, the nuns’ mission focused on caring for the poor and the sick. For this reason, their influence on the development and practice of medicine reached well beyond Montreal. They established a reputation for providing care to anyone who was suffering, whether Indigenous, French or English. From the 19th century until the second half of the 20th century, the congregation founded several hospitals in Canada and elsewhere in the Americas.

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This object resides at the Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal.

This article originally appeared in Cinquante Merveilles de nos musées: les plus beaux trésors de la Francophonie Canadienne. The special interest publication was part of Projet Portage, a five-year initiative to connect history lovers in French and English Canada, generously supported by the Molson Foundation.

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