Originally presented from September 12, 2019 to February 9, 2020.


Return of exhibition at the Écomusée du fier monde from June 7 to August 30, 2020

The Écomusée du fier monde reopens its doors on Sunday, June 7 to once again present Pushing Back at Fate: Poverty, Families and Institutions, an exhibition that explores the history of confinement as a form of intervention most common among the poor and destitute.


With the help of images of archival documents and artifacts, discover the history of numerous institutions dealing with poverty, illness, and deviance (prisons, orphanages, asylums) that have marked working-class neighbourhoods like the Centre-Sud since the mid 19th century.

Today these institutions are part of a rich architectural heritage. The exhibition invites you to look beyond the walls—to understand and bring to light the people who were once considered destitute, ill, insane, dependent, deviant, delinquent, or incapable.


From Charity to Social Rights

File d’attente à la porte de l’œuvre de la soupe à l’Asile de la Providence. Vers 1930.
Archives Providence, Montréal

Since the mid-19th century—with the onset of the industrial revolution—a significant number of working-class families find themselves living precariously. Before the First World War, public authorities only intervened to take responsibility for the mentally unfit destitute and for prison inmates. While many diverse charities exist at this time, they offer last resort assistance that falls under private benefactors or religious institutions.



Over the course of the 20th century, public authorities invest in social policies such as unemployment insurance, family benefits, hospital insurance, and health insurance, in large part due to pressure from secular and religious reform groups, as well as from citizens. It is the emergence of social rights, and the organizations that defend them. The preservation of these rights aims to ensure the dignity and wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of society.



This exhibition is realised in partnership with the Centre d’histoire des régulations sociales de l’UQAM (CHRS).