The Souvenir of Western Women/Roman Catholic Women of the Northwest

Roman Catholic Women of the Northwest


FROM early pioneer days in the Northwest, the women of the Roman Catholic Church have taken an active part in the care of the sick and in assisting the needy. In a particular manner do the religious orders of Catholic women claim the esteem and affection of the people of the far West; for these women of self-sacrificing lives have done more than any others in the unwearied tending of the sick, in the care of the orphan, and the Christian education of youth.

The first nuns to make the perilous journey to the Northwest were the Sisters of Notre Dame, from France. These nuns came to Oregon at a very early date, and remained for some time at St. Paul, where they labored for the civilization of the Indians.

The distinction of being the founders of the first organized body of Christian workers in the "Land of Lewis and Clark" belongs to the Sisters of Charity of Providence, who came to Washington from Montreal in 1856, landing at Vancouver December 8. This order is devoted to charity and education. Thus the work of the women of the Roman Catholic Church began amidst great privations. Very vew whites peopled the territory at that time.

A boarding school and two orphanages, one for girls: the other for boys, were established. In these institutions, with comparatively little aid, the nuns have nurtured and educated hundreds of unfortunate children.

The next order that came to the rugged West was that of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. They, too, came from Montreal, by the way of Cape Horn in 1859.

These Sisters have the credit of being the first congregation of women to establish a permanent work in the cause of education in Oregon.

Although dedicated to this cause, this band of women hesitated not to do all the work their hands found to do. In the absence of others to do it, they looked after the sick and needy poor, often watching all night by the bedside of some sufferer, cheerfully ministering to her wants, and yet filling their places in the school room without an hour's intervening repose.

Large and efficient societies organized for philanthropic work are conducted by the lay women of the church, through which much suffering is alleviated and the wants of the needy ministered to without regard to creed or nationality.