The Home for Friendless Women

The Home for Friendless Women


Public Archives Photo from Lost Ottawa

“Any girl or woman desiring to forsake a life of sin will find a helping hand and shelter if needed at the Home for Friendless Women, 412 Wellington Street” was the notice that ran regularly in the Ottawa Citizen’s classified advertisements through the 1880s. It was more like a workhouse, operating as a laundry, than a place for women to find shelter.  Shortly after opening they were processing over 80,000 pieces a year, by 1900 10,000 pieces a month.


The Ironing room of Ottawa’s Home for Friendless Women opened in February of 1895 and was established by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1888, to provide a place of succour for “fallen” or otherwise destitute women. In the days before social services, and you were a fallen woman you had no where else to go. In its first year it was home to 6 discharged prisoners, 9 unemployed servants and 2 destitute mothers with 3 children.  The women did laundry on a more or less industrial scale to earn their keep.

In the 1920’s the home would move to another building which is now Cambridge Street. In Beechwood Cemetery, there is a stone marking “The Home for Friendless Women Plot”.




Article sent by Debora Cloutier—Lost Ottawa


Block with the Home for the Friendless Women at 412 Wellington, in 1891.In previous entries, the locations given was 660. However, this does not correspond with the information found in the accession file. As one Heritage Ottawa document point out, the existence of the home for so long points to ongoing social conditions. (LAC PA-011254).



Related reading:


I am a Laundry Girl

Embroidery of the Insane?

Did You Know About the House of Industry?



The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
16 Dec 1986, Tue  •  Page 6

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

6 responses »

  1. This is so sad. They just closed the homeless shelter in Smiths Falls, for expectant mothers. They did an amazing job teaching these moms, helping them through high school. It’s so sad.


  2. Linda thank you so much for writing this!! I just discovered today – like ten minutes ago – that my Great Grandmother lived at this Home for Friendless Women in 1891 with a 5 month old son. (I have the census records if you like). She is an enigma for sure – cannot find any records on her in Scotland, where she was born. I’ve been doing genealogy research for 20 years so I’m not about to stop though 🙂



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