ASGM L082_7Y14D Maison mère, Maison des hommes, 1938.
As construction on the Mother House continued in the 1880s, male employees were hired to help the Grey Nuns with a variety of work. Adhering to the social and religious customs of the period, these employees slept in a separate two-storey house north of the main building. Also typical of the time, much of the men’s work involved manual labour or tending to male patients or boarders. They also worked as plumbers, cabinetmakers, electricians and painters throughout the building. But photographic records from the 1930s also show men working in kitchens or the laundry – a sign that the Grey Nuns did not strictly maintain traditional gendered divisions of labour.
“They hired men to work there for quite a long time. You know, cabinet makers, plumbers, electricians, painters…it was a whole team that worked for the sisters.”
These former workers’ quarters are now called the Grey Nuns Annex Building. It houses researchers and administration from the Department of Education. Its centrepiece is the Observation Nursery, a model school that promotes development and understanding of young children. Education students from Concordia visit the nursery regularly to observe toddlers at play and discuss childhood issues with parents, carrying on the Grey Nuns’ tradition of service to all age groups.