St Angela Merici founded the Company of St Ursula (Brescia, Italy in 1535) for the instruction, education and protection of young girls. Not a religious institute, the order drew women who made a vow of chastity. They lived together as a family, a novel arrangement for young women in those days. Ursuline foundations grew in number and continued as convents and congregations with a connection to the founder. Today, there are cloistered nuns (some living in centralized institutes, some not), sisters (living in about 60 religious congregations) and secular Ursulines (most of them living in companies of St Ursula, as in the 16th century).

 The Ursulines who came to Québec in 1639 with the blessed MARIE DE L'INCARNATION were enclosed nuns.

The Ursuline Convent in Québec is the oldest educational institution for women in North America. Ursulines are now found throughout French Canada as well as in foundations at Chatham (1860), Prelate (1912), Bruno (1913), Tildonk (1914) and London (the Ursuline Sisters of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus, 1920).