Mother Emilie Gamelin

Biographical Notes
Scope and Content
Related Materials
Box and Folder List


Collection Inventory

Biographical Notes

Emilie Tavernier was born at Montreal, Quebec, on February 19, 1800, the youngest of fifteen children. Left an orphan at an early age, she was brought up under the care of her aunts. Naturally gifted and amiable, Emilie became an accomplished young lady, enjoying the modest pleasures of society but always concerned for the needs of the poor. On June 4, 1823, at the age of twenty-three years, she married Jean-Baptiste Gamelin, a wealthy Montreal merchant. In the course of their happy but brief marriage, they had three sons, but each died at an early age. Jean-Baptiste died on October 1, 1827.

As "the Widow Gamelin," Emilie dedicated her energy and her financial resources to serving the poor in a spirit of humility, simplicity, and charity. A strong devotion to Our Mother of Sorrows gave her comfort and strength. Not content with visiting the poor in their homes, on March 4, 1830, she opened her first refuge for elderly and destitute women. Responding to numerous cholera epidemics and periods of civil unrest, Emilie began nursing the sick and visiting prisoners. These ministries flourished with the assistance of her many friends, and in 1841, Emilie obtained civil incorporation of her work. On February 2, 1842, Emilie took a private vow to serve the poor.

With the Most Reverend Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, Emilie founded the congregation of the Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Poor on March 25, 1843. Although not one of the original seven women chosen for the community, she was admitted to the novitiate on October 8, 1843. After pronouncing her religious vows on March 29, 1844, Emilie was appointed as the first superior of the congregation.

The Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Poor--known to all as the Sisters of Providence--grew rapidly under Mother Gamelin’s direction, serving the poor, mentally ill, aged, orphans, deaf-mutes, prisoners, and handicapped. Mother Emilie Gamelin died on September 23, 1851, a victim of cholera, after an illness of only twelve hours. On her deathbed, she urged her sisters to be ever mindful of the virtues she herself had embraced throughout life: "Humility, simplicity, and charity. Above all, char . . . [ity]."

Mother Gamelin’s Cause of Beatification was officially opened in 1977, and on December 23, 1993, she was declared a woman of Heroic Virtues worthy of veneration by the Church. On December 18, 2000, Pope John Paul II declared that the cure of a young boy was a miracle granted by God through Mother Gamelin's intercession, and authorized her beatification. The ceremony of beatification will take place Sunday, October 7, 2001, at the Vatican in Rome.

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Since the materials in this collection have been accessioned over time and from disparate sources, they have been arranged by the archives staff into five series, housed in thirteen document boxes (six linear feet). The series are: biography, publications, Office of the Cause of Beatification, In the Footsteps of Mother Gamelin, and subject series.

Scope and Contents

The Mother Gamelin collection consists primarily of biographical publications and other secondary source materials on her life and the canonization process. The majority of the documents were published by the Sisters of Providence General Administration in Montreal, Quebec, to foster knowledge of the foundress of the community and its historical roots. Other records document activities in Sacred Heart and Mother Joseph Provinces commemorating special events in the life of Mother Gamelin or the religious community.

Series 1: Biography

This series includes brief biographical notes, retreat notes, necrology, and material related to the anniversaries of Mother Gamelin’s birth and death. The anniversary of Mother Gamelin’s death--September 23--is marked in each Sisters of Providence institution through "Mission Day" or "Mother Gamelin Day" activities, samples of which are found here. (More complete documentation of Mission Day activities is filed in the institution collections.)

The 200th anniversary of Mother Gamelin's birthday, celebrated throughout the world on February 19, 2000, is documented by minutes and correspondence of the international Planning Committee, summaries of local activities, publications, and souvenirs.

Series 2: Publications

This series contains numerous books, pamphlets, magazine and newspaper articles, and unpublished manuscripts on the life of Mother Emilie Gamelin. They are arranged in chronological order by format: books, pamphlets, articles, and unpublished manuscripts. Of note are two unpublished English translations of La Femme au Coeur Attentif (Eugène Nadeau, 1969), prepared by Sisters Cecilia Mary and Teresa Lang; neither translation was approved by the author for publication. The most recent full-length biography, Émilie Tavernier-Gamelin, by Denise Robillard (1988, 1992), is an excellent addition to the collection.

In preparation for the 200th anniversary of Mother Gamelin's birth, the useful "Special Feature" (1981 velox) was updated and reprinted as a six-page pamphlet, "Emilie Gamelin, Foundress of the Sisters of Providence" (2000). It remains the best brief English-language summary of Mother Gamelin's life and legacy.

Series 3: Office of the Cause of Beatification

In 1960, Sister Thérèse Frigon, of Montreal, Quebec, was appointed by the Sisters of Providence General Council to begin the exhaustive process of collecting and verifying the necessary documents to establish Mother Gamelin as a candidate for sainthood. A year later, the Office of the Cause of Emilie Gamelin was officially opened as the Emilie Gamelin Center, with Sister Thérèse as its director. This series documents her ongoing work through her correspondence with the Sacred Heart Province Archives and the community, and through the quarterly publication, Providence of the Poor. Three decades of research came to fruition on December 23, 1993, when Pope John Paul II signed the Decree of Venerability, completing the first step in the canonization process.

In 1996, the Office of the Cause of Beatification was separated from the Emilie Gamelin Center to allow Sister Thérèse Frigon to devote herself exclusively to the continuing work of the Cause (such as documenting the medical miracle necessary for beatification). Sister Thérèse Potvin assumed directorship of the Emilie Gamelin Center, and its newsletter, Providence of the Poor, was renamed Echoes of Emilie.

Series 4: In the Footsteps of Mother Gamelin

In 1978, in conjunction with the official opening of the cause of Mother Gamelin and the General Chapter, the Emilie Gamelin Center organized a tour of Old Montreal "in the footsteps of Mother Gamelin." The guided tour focused on sites from her life and the early history of the Sisters of Providence. An expanded version of the tour was given the following year during a "Pilgrimage to the Mother House" made by a group of sisters from throughout the community. It has since been refined as a self-guided walking/driving tour. This series contains material from the original tour, the Pilgrimage, and subsequent visits by the sisters.

Series 5: Subject Series

This series contains miscellaneous documents, primarily literary and artistic commemorations of Mother Gamelin (holy cards, plays, portraits, sculptures, etc.). The files are arranged in alphabetical order by topic.

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Related Materials

SP Spirituality: Charism; SP Community History; SP Publications; Bishop Ignace Bourget; Photographs; Videotapes; Cassette Tapes; Reel-to-Reel Tapes: "Emilie Gamelin and the Mystical Body," Father Armand Nigro, SJ.

The personal papers of Sister Edyth B. Borthwick include her research notes and the unfinished manuscript of her biography of Mother Gamelin. These papers have not yet been processed.

The Providence Historical Archives, at the Sisters of Providence General Administration in Montreal, Quebec, is the official repository for the personal papers of Mother Gamelin and the records of the Office of the Cause of Beatification.


December 1, 1997, by Terri Mitchell, Assistant Archivist; updated January 22, 2001.

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Box 1



Birth: Centenary, 1900

Birth: Bicentenary, 2000
Correspondence from General Administration
Planning Committee
Montreal Activities
Sacred Heart Province Arrangements/Coordinators
Local Activities
Anchorage, Alaska
Burbank, California
Great Falls, Montana
Portland, Oregon
Seattle, Washington
Spokane, Washington
Yakima, Washington
Walla Walla, Washington
Tri-Province Resource/Retreat Booklet
"Celebration of Mother Gamelin in 1900," Loretta
"In the Course of Emilie's Days" Biographical Calendar

Box 1a

Private Vow, 1842

Holy Habit, 1843

Retreat Notes

Extracts from her Journal, 1846-1850

"Retreat Notes," translated by Sister Edyth Borthwick, 1977

"A Thought A Day from the Notes of Mother Gamelin"

Death, 1851
Twenty-fifth Anniversary, 1876
Centenary, 1951
Exhumation, 1962
125th Anniversary, 1976
Other Anniversaries/Mother Gamelin Day, 1974-


Box 2

"Essai de Bio-Bibliographie de la Reverende Mère Gamelin," Sister Paul of the Savior (Thérèse Frigon), 1958, French

"Bibliographie sur Mère Gamelin," 1979, French

Vie de Mère Gamelin, 1900, French, 2c

Vida de Madre Gamelin, 1900, Spanish

Life of Mother Gamelin, 1912, 2c

Box 3

Biographical Sketches of Mother Gamelin and Her Six Foundress Companions, 1918, 2c

Biographies de la Mère Gamelin et de Ses Six Compagnes Fondatrices, 1918, French, 2c

Great American Foundresses, Father Joseph B. Code, 1929

The Table of the King, Katherine Burton, 1952, 2c

Angel of the Poor, Brother Ernest, CSC, 1958, 2c

Box 4

La Femme au Coeur Attentif, Eugène Nadeau, 1969, French, 2c
Translated manuscript, Sister Cecilia Mary, nd
Translated manuscript, Sister Teresa Lang, 1975?
Notes re. translation, 1997

Box 5

Charité Bien Ordonnée, Huguette Lapointe-Roy, 1987, French

Émilie Tavernier-Gamelin, Denise Robillard, 1988, French

Émilie Tavernier-Gamelin, Denise Robillard, 1992, English, translated by Sister Lina Gaudette

Biography of Emilie Gamelin (unfinished), Sister Edyth Borthwick

Les Pionnières, Pierrette Champoux, 1992, French

Mother Emilie Gamelin: The Best Friend of the Poor, Jean-Guy Dubuc and Sylvia Provantini, 1999, 2c

Madre Emilia Gamelin: La mejor amiga de los pobres, Jean-Guy Dubuc and Sylvia Provantini, 1999, Spanish

"Recit d’une Visite ...," Jean-Joseph Girouard, 1841, French, 2c

"Madame Gamelin et les Origines de la Providence," l’Abbe G. Bourassa, 1892, French

"Mother Gamelin, Foundress of the Daughters ... Poor," 1924?, 4c

"Mère Gamelin, Fondatrice des Filles ... Pauvres, 1924?," French, 2c

"Dix Fondatrices Canadiennes," Marie-Claire Daveluy, 1925, French

"She Hath Considered a Field," 1942, 4c

"Elle a Considéré un Champ," 1943, French, 3c

Box 6

"La Première Soeur de la Providence à Montréal: Mère Gamelin," Sister Madeleine, 1957, French, 3c

"The Spirit of Mother Emilie Gamelin," Father Paul M. Pilon, OP, Providence Collection #3, 1970, 4c

"Contemporary Religious Commitment by the Spiritual Dynamism of Mother Emilie Gamelin," Providence Collection #7, 1974, 4c

"Mother Emilie Gamelin and Her Cause of Beatification," Father Angelo Mitri, OMI, 1977, 4c

"Mother Emilie Gamelin: Foundress of the Sister of Providence," 1981, 6c

"Mère Gamelin: La Grande Dame de Montréal," Father André-M. Cimichella, OSM, 1981, French

"Mother Gamelin: The Great Lady of Montreal," Father André-M. Cimichella, OSM, 1982, 4c

"Mother Gamelin, A Woman of Compassion: Report of Historical Commission," Providence Collection #13, 1983, 4c

"Mother Gamelin, A Woman of Compassion: Report of the Historical Commission," translated by Sister Thérèse Carignan, 1984, 4c

"Emilie Tavernier-Gamelin, Woman of Compassion," Great Moments in Canadian Church History, 1986, 4c

"Emilie Tavernier-Gamelin, Femme de Compassion," 1986, French

"Emilia Tavernier-Gamelin, Mujer Compasiva," 1986, Spanish

"Emili Tavèné Gamelin, Fi Ki gen Ké nan min," 1986, Creole

"Almanach du Peuple de Dieu," 1988, French

"Mère Gamelin: Une Religieuse," No. 61, n.d., French

Box 7

Special Feature
1981, Original Velox
1981, 6c
1985, Spanish translation

"Emilie Gamelin, Foundress of the Sisters of Providence," Public Relations Department, Providence Health System, Seattle, 2000

Sacred Heart Province Newsletters/Clippings

Unpublished Manuscripts
Memories of Mother Bernard Morin, Correspondence,
"Mother Gamelin: A Valiant Woman," Betty Berghoff
(Sister Rebecca Berghoff), 1943
"Emmelie: The Little Girl Who Loved The Poor," July
1953 Profession Class
"Mother Emilie Gamelin," Sister Marcien, c.1960s
"Mother Emilie Gamelin and Social Service," Sister
Madeleine Durand, 1961
"Mother Emilie Gamelin, FCSP," Sister Guske, novice,
"Mother Emilie Gamelin, Foundress/Daughters of
Charity Servants of the Poor," Sister Susan
Cunningham, 1974
"The Role of the Sisters of Providence in Health
Care: Reflections on Mother Gamelin," the Rev.
Lawrence T. Reilly, 1978
"Life and Spirit of Emilie Gamelin," Sister Joan
Wigbers, 1979
"Historical Significance of the Sisters of Providence in
Health Care," Sister Philias Denis, 1979
"Some Aspects of the Significance of Mother Emilie
Gamelin Today," Sister Edyth Borthwick, 1981
"Early History of the Sisters of Providence (Prior to
1856)," Sister Louise Gleason, 1981
"Mother Emilie Gamelin," Sister Louise Gleason, 1983
"Mother Emilie Gamelin," John P. Greeley, 1985,


Box 8


Early Correspondence, 1900, 1908

Emilie Gamelin Center, 1961-
Sister Thérèse Frigon, Director, 1961-1995
Correspondence, 1979-
Presentations, 1979-1981
Defense of Beatification Cause, 1968
Documentation of Favors/Cures

Providence of the Poor
First Set/Second Set, 1978-1995

Box 8a

Echoes of Emilie
First Set/Second Set, 1996-

Box 9

Postulator of the Cause, Angelo Mitri, OMI, 1977-1984

Official Opening of the Cause, 1977

Introduction of the Cause, 1981
Decree, Diocese of Montreal
Montreal: Mass, May 31, 1981
Montreal: Press Kit/Publicity
Sacred Heart Province: Planning/Correspondence
Sacred Heart Province: Mass Booklets
Sacred Heart Province: Institution Masses, May
30-31, 1981
Sacred Heart Province: Press Kit, English/Spanish

Year of Mother Gamelin, 1981-1982

Diocesan Official Court Proceedings, March 1983

Historical Commission
Meeting in Vancouver, B.C., 1984
Tour of Sacred Heart Province, 1984

Box 10

Positio: Prepared for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, 1989

Declaration of Heroic Virtues/Venerability
Theologians Recognize Heroic Virtues, April 1993
Decree of Heroic Virtues, December 1993
Mass in Celebration, Montreal, May 1994

Office of the Cause of Emilie Gamelin, 1996-

Inquiry into Presumed Miracle, 1997

Beatification, 2000

Canonization Process, General


Box 11

Tour 1978

Tour 1979

Tour 1984

Booklet 1987, revised

Tours, other


Box 12

Ostensorium, 1883
Emilie Gamelin Museum/Other Artifacts
Transferred from Archives to Mother House

Calendars, 1972, 1973

Dorothea Dix/Prisons

Film Proposal

Place Emilie Gamelin, Montreal, 1995

"An Echo of the Foundation," Novitiate, n.d.
"The Greatest of these is Charity," July 1952 Novitiate
"Sounds and Light: Mission and Charism of Mother
Gamelin," 1979
Christi Collins, 1997

Authentic Portrait (lay dress), 1843
Daguerreotype, 1849
Oil Painting, Sent to Chile, 1871
Oil Painting, Sent to the West, 1878
"Official Portrait" (habit added), 1893
"Mother Gamelin and the Origins of Providence," Sister
Marie David, 1896
Centennial Collage, 1843-1943
Portrait, Saint Joseph Hospital, Burbank, California,
Symbolic Representation, Sister Marie Albert of Jesus,
OP, 1965
Poster, 1981
"Mother Gamelin," Lawrence Williams, 1981
"Three Foundresses," Lawrence Williams, 1983


Prayer Cards




Small cards
1960s, English, 2c.
1960s, French (incomplete)


Small bust, 1936, 1978
Mother Emilie Gamelin Monument, Montreal, 1968
Montreal METRO Station, 2000

Videotape: "Fruit of the Vine," 1992

April 20, 2000

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