Jeanne Mance (November 12, 1606 – June 18, 1673) was a French nurse and settler of New France. She arrived in New France two years after the Ursuline Nuns came to Quebec. Among the founders of Montreal, Canada in 1642, she established its first hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal, in 1645. She returned twice to France to seek financial support for the hospital. After providing most of the care directly for years, in 1657 she recruited three sisters of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, and continued to direct operations of the hospital.
Jeanne Mance was born into a bourgeois family in Langres, in Haute-Marne, France. She was the daughter of Catherine Émonot and Charles Mance, a prosecutor for the king in Langres, an important diocese in the northern Burgundy. After her mother died prematurely, Jeanne cared for eleven brothers and sisters. She went on to care for victims of the Thirty Years War and the plague.
At age 34, while on a pilgrimage to Troyes in Champagne, Mance discovered her missionary calling. She decided to go to New France in North America, then in the first stages of colonization by the French. She was supported by Anne of Austria, the wife of King Louis XIII, and by the Jesuits.
Mance was a member of the Society of Our Lady of Montreal; its goal was to convert the natives and found a hospital in Montreal similar to the one in Quebec.
Founding of Montreal and Hôtel-Dieu hospital
Charles Lallemant recruited Jeanne Mance for the Société Notre-Dame de Montréal. Mance embarked from La Rochelle on May 9, 1641 on a crossing of the Atlantic that took three months. After wintering in Quebec, she and Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve arrived at the Island of Montreal in the spring of 1642. They founded the new city on May 17, 1642 on land granted by the Governor. That same year Mance began operating a hospital in her home.
Three years later (1645), with a donation of 6000 francs by Angélique Bullion, she opened a hospital on Rue Saint-Paul. She directed its operations for 17 years. A new stone structure was built in 1688, and others have been built since then.
In 1650 Mance visited France and returned with 22,000 livres of money set aside by Mme de Bullion for the hospital. On her return to Montreal, she found that the attacks of the Iroquois threatened the colony. She loaned the hospital money to M. de Maisonneuve, who returned to France to organize a force of one hundred men for the colony’s defense.
Mance made a second trip to France in 1657 to seek financial assistance for the hospital. At the same time, she secured three Hospital Sisters of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph from the convent of La Fleche in Anjou: Judith Moreau de Bresoles, Catherine Mace, and Marie Maillet. They had a difficult passage on the return, made worse by an outbreak of the plague on board, but all four women survived. While Mgr. de Laval tried to retain the sisters at Quebec for that hospital, they eventually reached Montreal in October 1659.
With the help of the new sisters, Mance was able to ensure the continued operations of the hospital. For the rest of her years, she lived more quietly.
She died in 1673 after a long illness and was buried in the church of the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital. While the church and her house were destroyed in 1696 for redevelopment, her work was carried on by the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph. The three nuns she had recruited in 1659 served as hospital administrators. Two centuries later, in 1861 the hospital was moved to the foot of Mount Royal.
- A small statuette (2008) representing Jeanne Mance by André Gauthier was commissioned for the Canadian Nurses Association for a biannual award of nursing excellence.
- Rue Jeanne-Mance, a north-south street in Montreal, is named after Mance.
- Jeanne-Mance Park, situated on Park Avenue, opposite Mount Royal, and just south of Mount Royal Avenue, is named after Mance.
- Jeanne-Mance Building, situated on Eglantine Driveway, Tunneys Pasture, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. A Federal Government of Canada Office Tower currently occupied by Health Canada.