Sisters of Providence arrive at Fort Vancouver on December 8, 1856.

  • By Mildred Andrews
  • Posted 2/15/2003
  • Essay 5207
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On December 8, 1856, five Sisters of Providence, Roman Catholic nuns, arrive at Fort Vancouver, Washington.  Sister Joseph (formerly Esther Pariseau) (1823-1902) is their leader. She will later be known as Mother Joseph, the Northwest's first architect.

Their mission is to build some of the Northwest's first hospitals and to provide health care, education, and social work throughout the region.

Their headquarters sent them on their 6,000-mile journey from Montreal, Quebec, in response to a request from Bishop A. M. A. Blanchet (1797-1887) of the Nisqually Diocese.

Nobody at Fort Vancouver had prepared for the sisters' arrival. Sister Joseph set to work, using her skills as an architect and builder to convert an old Hudson's Bay building into a combination dormitory and church with facilities to begin a school and orphanage.


Mildred Tanner Andrews, Washington Women as Path Breakers (Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 1989), 43-44; David M. Buerge and Junius Rochester, Roots and Branches (Seattle: Church Council of Greater Seattle, 1988), 72-75; Ellis Lucia, Seattle's Sisters of Providence (Seattle: Sisters of Providence, 1978).

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