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St. Francis Orphanage

Replies: 5

Re: St. Francis Orphanage

Posted: 1312903384000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Tremblay, Hope, French
I do not know of any "records" but I would like to visit the Museum of Work in Woonsocket, as I heard they do have information and pictures. I live in Florida, so this is not going to be easy. The orphanage is still in use, but as a a hospital now, so you can see the building. As far as pictures online go, I have seen a similar orphanage run by the Franciscan nuns in New Jersey (at about the same time as the Woonsocket orphanage). It helps to see the room of metal beds and round tables set up in the dining room.

Because your father's age when he went in to the orphanage, and because he spoke only French, I am guessing his parents or grandparents once worked in the mills of the area and that his heritage is originally from Quebec (from where most of the French speaking people of that area came from). Woonsocket had a strong church centered culture which included parochial school. They taught one half day of English (math was also taught in English) so your father should have had some exposure, unless he was not attending school yet when he became an orphan.

The nuns were strict, but from what my mom has told me, it was necessary for survival. The good thing was she got an excellent education including Palmer writing method, English and French, gardening (for ag science), and religious studies... school was most of the day on weekdays with school taught in French in the beginning of the day and taught in English after lunch, church was all day Sunday, and Saturday was usually spent doing deep cleaning chores first and then free time -- outdoor activities or indoor (my mom was there until age 15).
Castor oil was given as a cure all, and other measures were taken to try to keep orphans from getting sick, but this was the 1930s and antibiotics were not in use until later. An infirmary was on the premises for children who were very sick.
The benefits of being in an orphanage were three square meals, a roof over your head, and care to make sure that all was spic and span and well-disciplined. The sisters were polite. If you were out of order, you could expect punishment of some kind...a slap on the knuckles with a ruler, or loss of privileges. My mom was stopped from fighting a bully and her hair was cut off at the quick (right where the braid meets the neck).

Sleeping arrangements were lots of metal bunk beds in a huge room with large windows. The yard outside was well manicured with gardens and rose arbors and a shrine to St Mary. A medal with St Christopher was often given as a gift (patron saint of travelers).
My understanding was that the nuns made an effort to make an orphan employable and useful, so as to be readily adopted into society.
My mother's name was Barbara Hope in the orphanage. Her given name was Ernestina Tremblay French. Her mother's name was Bertha Tremblay but she was known as "Hope".

My mom was given a her first communion, confirmation and confession in the chapel. The convent (nun's quarters)was housed in a separate building. It was much easier for boys to be taken in by a home than it was for a girl, but you can understand that given the times, it was not very easy to find a home willing to support a child; so it is commendable that the nuns found your father a foster home in that day.
SubjectAuthorDate Posted
dmnash23 1311456492000 
Pamela Hon 1312307550000 
dmnash23 1312310920000 
Pamela Hon 1312903384000 
Pamela Hon 1312905017000 
Pamela Hon 1312907244000 
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