Thursday, March 15, 2012
A portable knife and fork belonging to the young Marie-Marguerite d'Youville, and part of the silver cutlery set she received on the occasion of her wedding.
Marie-Marguerite was born in 1701 at Varennes, Québec. Her father died when she was very young and her mother remarried beneath her class, foiling Marguerite's impending marriage to a scion of Verennes. As a result of the generosity of the Catholic Church, Marguerite was able to attend Ursuline Convent in Québec City for 2 years before returning home to school her younger siblings. When she was 21 she married François d'Youville, a bootlegger. They were together 8 years before he died of unknown causes. During that time she bore 6 children, 4 of whom passed away very young, leaving 2 sons and the end of Marguerite's lineage when they entered the priesthood.
Given the loss of her father, 4 children and husband by the age of 30, it's said the depth of Marguerite's grief positioned her to commit wholeheartedly to her faith and to the service of the vulnerable. This manifested with the opening of a home for the poor in 1737, undertaken by Marguerite and three other women who were to become the first Soeurs Grises. "Les grises", "the grey women" was a slander against Marguerite accusing her and her Sisters of being drunkards based on Marguerite's late husband's questionable profession. She chose to maintain the name as a demonstration of innocence.