Joseph* (née Esther Pariseau) and four Sisters,
left Montreal in November 1856 to begin a month-long journey to Vancouver, in
the Oregon Territory.
From Montreal to New
York City. Sailing aboard the S.S. Illinois to the Isthmus of Panama. Crossing
by train to reach the Pacific Ocean and, finally, boarding the Golden Age to
sail to Vancouver.
- Convinced that she was destined to serve in the Oregon
Territory, Sister Joseph was dismayed to learn in 1852 that she was not chosen
to go to Vancouver the following year. She was needed in at her post in
Montreal. Her ability to care for her fellow nuns as well as the community
around her was already widely recognized.
team that did leave in 1853 team took a wrong turn and found themselves in
Oregon City instead.
Finally, in 1856,
Sister Joseph was chosen to lead a group of four nuns to Vancouver. Her skills
as a carpenter, seamstress, architect and fundraiser are legend and well
documented. But the success of her missions throughout the Northwest
Territories came because of her instinctive ability to care for those who
worked with and for this renaissance woman. Fundraising for
missions: Mother Joseph and the "Lady Blackrobes," as they were nicknamed
by the miners, traveled on begging trips all over the Northwest Territories,
even as far as Idaho and Montana. Mother Joseph knew the power of packaging,
so she always took along one of the prettiest nuns.
- In 1858,
Sister Joseph* was approached to care for
John Lloyd (some accounts read Cloyd). The young man was suffering from
A small cabin, 24 x 16 feet,
was to serve as a laundry and bakery. Drawing on her experience at the
Sisters' hospital in Montreal, Sister Joseph divided the cabin in half, put in
4 cots, and opened St. Joseph Hospital on June 7- the first permanent hospital
in all of the Northwest Territories.
the first step was organizing the Ladies of Charity. Sixteen women -
Catholics, Protestants, and Jews - worked together to raise funds and to
furnish the small hospital.
- During her lifetime, Mother Joseph* founded
the first permanent hospital in the Northwest Territories, followed by nearly
50 hospitals, orphanages and other institutions from Oregon to
- In 1980,
Mother Joseph* was declared Washington State's
second representative in Statuary Hall in the Capitol Building in Washington,
D.C. You can see a replica of the statue in Southwest's Heritage Chapel.
In 1999, the Washington State legislature declared
her birthday, April 16, Mother Joseph Day.
All this for a woman whose father described as someone who
"...can read and write and figure accurately. She can cook and sew and spin
and do all manner of housework well. She has learned carpentry from me and can
handle tools as well as I can. Moreover, she can plan and supervise the work
This remarkable woman went on to design and build
schools, orphanages and hospitals throughout the Northwest
*Sister Joseph or Mother Joseph?
Our sources say the title of 'Mother' is an honorary one bestowed upon a nun
who has been given charge of a mission and who has been successful in that
mission. Under this definition, she was definitely entitled to the title of
'Mother,' certainly within a short time after their arrival in Vancouver.
However, it is interesting to note that up to the day of her deat, she always
signed herself as Sister Joseph. She rests in St. James Acres Catholic Cemetery
on 4th Plain Boulevard in Vancouver, Washington. The entrance to the cemetery is
at 1401 E. 29th Street, Vancouver.