Providence in the West: A Timeline, 1856-1902 

1856-1902: Pioneering Healthcare and Education
1903-1960: Growth and Diversity
1961-1974: Transition Years
1975-2009: New Life through Collaboration

March 25, 1843

Sisters of Providence religious community founded in Montreal, Quebec, by Bishop Ignace Bourget and Mother Emilie Gamelin.

December 1, 1852 - February 1, 1853

The first Sisters of Providence come to the American west from Montreal, but their mission is cut short by lack of preparation and support. On their way home to Quebec, they stop in Valparaiso, Chile, and remain to serve orphans and others in need. Their ministry results in the establishment of Bernarda Morin Province.

December 8, 1856

Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart and four Sisters of Providence arrive in Fort Vancouver, Washington Territory, from Montreal. They open their small home to orphans and the elderly.

April 15, 1857

Providence Academy, first permanent school in the Pacific Northwest, founded in Vancouver as a day school, boarding school, and orphanage.

June 7, 1858

St. Joseph Hospital, the first permanent hospital in the Northwest, founded in Vancouver (now Southwest Washington Medical Center).

January 28, 1859

Incorporation of the Sisters of Charity of the House of Providence in the Territory of Washington, the parent corporation of the sisters' current ministries and one of the oldest existing corporations in the region.

March 19, 1859

Bylaws on the new corporation are established, and the care of the corporation entrusted to St. Joseph as "spiritual president."


Sisters hold territorial contract for care of the mentally ill, establishing a separate hospital in Vancouver.

September 23, 1863

Sisters extend their ministry in Washington Territory beyond Vancouver with the foundation of St. Joseph School in Steilacoom, then a burgeoning port town on Puget Sound.

February 18, 1864

St. Vincent Academy founded in Walla Walla, taking the Providence ministry into the interior of the Washington Territory.

October 17, 1864

Sister Mary of the Infant Jesus and three sisters travel to St. Ignatius, Montana Territory, to teach the native children. From St. Ignatius, the Providence ministry expands throughout present-day western Montana and northern Idaho.

August 11, 1868

Providence of Our Lady of Seven Dolors School, on the Tulalip Reservation, is the sisters' first school for Native Americans in Washington Territory.

April 19, 1873

Foundation of St. Patrick Hospital, Missoula, Montana Territory, which now holds the distinction of being the sisters' oldest foundation in the west.

July 19, 1875

St. Vincent Hospital, the first permanent hospital in Oregon, founded in Portland (now Providence St. Vincent Medical Center).

May 3, 1877

The foundation for Providence Hospital, Seattle, is laid when three sisters arrive to open the King County Poor Farm in the Georgetown area.

January 27, 1880

St. Mary Hospital founded in Walla Walla, Washington Territory.

July 30, 1880

 St. Mary Hospital founded in Astoria, Oregon Territory.

August 5, 1884

The sisters' ministries in the Northwest are officially placed under the patronage of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

April 30, 1886

Sacred Heart Hospital (now Sacred Heart Medical Center) founded in Spokane.

July 6, 1886

St. Mary Hospital, the sisters' first hospital in western Canada, founded in New Westminster, B.C.

August 5, 1886

St. Clare Hospital founded in Fort Benton, Montana.

June 18, 1887

Foundation of St. Peter Hospital on what is now the campus of the Washington State Capitol, Olympia.

March 29, 1891

The Sisters of Providence establish seven administrative provinces, with three in the west: Sacred Heart Province, based in Vancouver, Washington; St. Ignatius Province, based in Missoula, Montana; and St. Vincent de Paul Province, based in Portland, Oregon.

August 2, 1891

St. Elizabeth Hospital (now Providence Yakima Medical Center) founded in Yakima, Washington.

September 23, 1892

Columbus Hospital (now Benefis Healthcare) founded in Great Falls, Montana.

April 17, 1893

St. Ignatius Hospital (now Whitman Community Hospital) founded in Colfax, Washington.

February 19, 1900

Celebration of the centennial of Mother Emilie Gamelin's birth throughout Canada and the western United States.

September 12, 1900

The Sisters of Providence Constitutions are approved by the Vatican, opening the way for new ministries in service to people in need.

January 19, 1902

Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart, age 79, dies at Providence Academy, Vancouver.

May 24, 1902

The sisters' ministry expands to California with the opening of Providence Hospital, Oakland (now part of Sutter Health System).

June 20, 1902

The sisters' ministry is extended to Alaska with the opening of Holy Cross Hospital, Nome.


Although some of their early missions had closed, in 1902, the sisters operated 17 hospitals and 8 schools in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, California, and Alaska, with several additional missions in western Canada.