Why “Grey Nuns”?

The activities of Marguerite, the Widow Youville, among the poor at the beginning of her charitable work were frowned upon by Montreal’s social elite. Even her two brothers-in-law, along with 26 other people, signed a petition in 1738 to prevent her from taking over the administration of the General Hospital from the Charon Brothers. In fact, it was very new for women to form communities and undertake charitable work in common for the “wretched”. She was accused, among other things, of continuing her late husband’s illegal trade in alcohol with the First Nations and of being a drunk herself. “You and your Sisters are tipsy”, people yelled at them as they walked down the street. In French, « grise » has two meanings: ‘tipsy’ and ‘grey’. In memory of these calumnies, the Sisters of Charity of Montreal also call themselves the Grey Nuns.