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Angela, Mother (21 February 1824–04 March 1887), educator and religious sister, was born Eliza Marie Gillespie in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Purcell Gillespie, an attorney, and Mary Madeleine Miers. After the death of her father the family moved to Lancaster, Ohio, in 1838. Eliza was educated by Dominican nuns in Somerset and later attended the Ladies’ Academy of the Visitation in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C....

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Anthony, Sister (15 August 1814–08 December 1897), member of the Sisters of Charity and Civil War nurse, was born Mary O’Connell in Limerick, Ireland, the daughter of William O’Connell and Catherine Murphy. After her mother’s death in about 1825, Mary and a sister emigrated to the United States, where they lived with an aunt in Maine. While still quite young, both girls were enrolled in the Ursuline convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts....

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Ayres, Anne (03 January 1816–09 February 1896), founder of the first Episcopal women's religious order, founder of the first Episcopal women’s religious order, was born in London, England, the daughter of Robert Ayres and Anne (maiden name unknown). She emigrated in 1836 with her mother to the United States and settled in New York City on the lower west side of Manhattan....

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Bowman, Thea (29 December 1937–30 March 1990), Roman Catholic nun, educator, and advocate for Catholicism within African American communities, was born Bertha Elizabeth Bowman in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the daughter of Theon Edward Bowman and Mary Esther Coleman Bowman. According to Bowman, her childhood was relatively happy and free from financial worries; her father was a doctor and her mother had been a teacher prior to the birth of their only child. As a young girl Bowman attended a number of African American churches, including Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Adventist, A.M.E., and A.M.E. Zion. Relationships she developed with members of the Catholic Order of the Missionary Servants of the Moly Holy Trinity, which included priests, sisters, and brothers, led her to convert to Catholicism when she was nine years old. In June 1947 Bowman was baptized at Holy Child Jesus Mission in Canton, Mississippi. She made her First Communion the following day....

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Butler, Mother Marie Joseph (22 July 1860–23 April 1940), Roman Catholic nun and founder of schools and colleges, was born Johanna Butler in Ballynunnery, County Kilkenny, Ireland, the daughter of John Butler and Ellen Forrestal, prosperous farmers. Johanna initially attended a secular Irish national school, but her secondary education was under the direction of the Sisters of Mercy in the town of New Ross. As her interest in religious life developed, she was influenced by a friend whose sister had joined the congregation of the Sacred Heart of Mary. Founded in France in 1849 by Père Jean Gailhac and a wealthy widow, Mme Apollonie Cure, the congregation devoted itself to providing quality Catholic education for girls....

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Cannon, Harriett Starr (07 May 1823–05 April 1896), Episcopal sister, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of William Cannon and Sally Hinman. Very little is known about her parents since both of them died on or about 24 November 1824, when she was little more than a year old. Captain James Allen, the brother-in-law of Sally Cannon, took Harriett and her sister Catherine Ann to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where they were raised by their aunt, Mrs. Hyde, a sister of their mother. In 1855 Catherine Ann died, and this major crisis for Harriett left her convinced, as she later recalled, that “God had a purpose for me” (Dix, p. 15). This purpose was to establish the first permanent Episcopal sisterhood in the United States....

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Clarke, Mary Frances (02 March 1803?–04 December 1887), founder of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was born in Dublin, Ireland, the daughter of Cornelius Clarke, a leather merchant, and Catherine Quartermas. Clarke received her education at a “penny school,” the local neighborhood school for poor children in Dublin, and from private tutors. She then worked as a bookkeeper in her father’s leather and harness shop. Following a disastrous fire in the shop that disabled her father, Clarke, as the eldest child, assumed the management of the business....

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Connelly, Cornelia (15 January 1809–18 April 1879), founder of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Ralph Peacock, a land speculator and merchant, and Mary Swope Bowen. Very little is known about Cornelia’s early childhood, including her education. Like many young women of that time in Philadelphia she probably was educated at home by her mother and possibly tutors. After the death of both her parents, she was raised by her well-to-do half-sister, Isabella Bowen Montgomery, who spared no expense in developing Cornelia’s talents. It is uncertain whether she was baptized into the Presbyterian church where her family attended when she was a small child, but records show that Cornelia was baptized into the Episcopal church in February 1831 and married Pierce Connelly, an Episcopalian priest, in December of that year. They had five children....

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Drexel, Katharine (26 November 1858–03 March 1955), philanthropist and mother superior, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Francis Anthony Drexel, a wealthy banker, and Hannah Jane Langstroth. When Drexel was an infant her mother died. In 1860, sixteen months after her mother’s death, her father married Emma Bouvier, who thereafter raised Katharine and her two sisters. Drexel lived in luxury, receiving the benefits of private tutoring in her home and the ease that immense wealth could bring in the second half of the nineteenth century. As a young woman she traveled extensively with her parents in the United States and in Europe. In 1883 her stepmother, who was known for her generous aid to Philadelphia’s poor, died. Two years later her father died, leaving his daughters an inheritance of more than $14 million that he had put in a trust fund for them and was to be distributed to various Philadelphia charities after they died....

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Duchesne, Rose Philippine (29 August 1769–18 November 1852), Catholic missionary, was born in Grenoble, France, the daughter of Pierre-François Duchesne, a noted lawyer and politician, and Rose-Euphrosine Perier, a member of a wealthy textile manufacturing family. From 1781 to 1783 Duchesne received her education in Sainte Marie-d’en-Haut in Grenoble, a convent boarding school of the Visitation nuns. Thereafter, as was a custom in some wealthy French homes, she was tutored at home by a French priest. In 1788 she joined the Visitation convent in Grenoble, at a time when the Duchesnes and Periers of Grenoble were becoming involved in the opening volleys of the French Revolution. Her father in particular had protested the king’s order of cessation that prorogued all provincial parliaments until the formation of new courts. When the French Revolution became violent in 1790, her father withdrew from political life. Two years later a local Grenoble precursor to the Reign of Terror dissolved her religious congregation and forced her to leave the convent. She returned home and did charitable work in and around Grenoble....

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Gill, Mother Irene (25 March 1856–22 December 1935), educator and Roman Catholic religious, was born in Galway, Ireland, and baptized Lucy, the daughter of Joshua Gill, a small-businessman, and Catherine Fox. Forced to migrate by economic conditions, in 1868 Lucy with her mother, sister Elizabeth, and a brother joined three sisters already living in New York City. Her father emigrated with another son to join children living in Australia. It is uncertain whether the elder Gills were ever reunited. Catherine Gill and her children lived on the Lower East Side, where Lucy attended St. Catherine’s Academy, run by the Sisters of Mercy, the religious community that two of her elder sisters had joined....

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Guérin, Anne-Thérèse (02 October 1798–14 May 1856), educator and religious leader, was born in Étables (Côtes-du-Nord), Brittany, France, the daughter of Laurent Guérin, a naval officer during the Napoleonic wars, and Isabelle Lefèvre. Anne-Thérèse received her basic education in reading, writing, and religion from her mother. At age nine she attended a small village school, which closed after one year. At about that time a young cousin of the Guérins, a seminarian studying for the priesthood, came to live with the family. He tutored Anne-Thérèse, and after his departure she continued her education by reading widely, in particular in literature and history....

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Hardey, Mary Aloysia (08 December 1809–17 June 1886), mother superior of the Society of the Sacred Heart, was born Mary Hardey in Piscataway, Maryland, the daughter of Frederick Hardey, a gentleman farmer, and Sarah Spalding. Both of her parents were descended from colonial Maryland Catholics. In 1817 the family moved to the South, and Mary grew up on the Hardey plantation in Opelousas, Louisiana. At age twelve she became one of the first pupils at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Grand Coteau, Louisiana. In 1825, at fifteen years of age, she entered the novitiate and took the name Aloysia. She was professed in 1833. Early on her talents, obedience, and devotion to the society set her apart....

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Hayden, Mother Bridget (26 August 1814–23 January 1890), Roman Catholic missionary nun and educator, was born Margaret Hayden in Kilkenny, Ireland, the daughter of Thomas Hayden and Bridget Hart. She and her family emigrated to the United States around 1820, settling in Perryville, Missouri, where her Father worked as a wheelwright. She attended schools at the Barrens near Perryville and at Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Both schools were run by the Sisters of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross, a congregation of Catholic women religious of chiefly American origin. After two of her sisters joined the congregation, Hayden followed their example in 1841, taking the religious name of Sister Mary Bridget. She received her early training at Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, and at the congregation’s mother house in Loretto, Kentucky....

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Healy, Eliza (23 December 1846–13 September 1919), Roman Catholic religious sister, was born a slave in Jones County, Georgia, the daughter of Michael Morris Healy, a well-to-do plantation owner, and Mary Eliza (maiden name uncertain, but possibly Clark), one of his slaves. Eliza Healy’s father was a native of Ireland who had immigrated to Jones County near Macon, Georgia, where, after acquiring land and slaves, he became a prosperous planter. Michael Healy chose a light-skinned slave as his concubine. Nine of the children she bore him survived. Healy acknowledged his children and carefully made provisions for their eventual removal outside of Georgia, where at that time, the manumission of slaves was virtually impossible....

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Lathrop, Rose Hawthorne (20 May 1851–09 July 1926), writer and founder (as Mother Alphonsa) of the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer, writer and founder (as Mother Alphonsa) of the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer, was born in Lenox, Massachusetts, the daughter of ...

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Matthews, Ann Teresa (1732–12 June 1800), a founder of the first Roman Catholic religious order for women in the United States, was born in Charles County, Maryland, the daughter of Joseph Matthews, a planter, and Susannah Craycroft. Her last name is also seen as Mathews, but both her father’s will and the record of her profession refer to her as Ann Matthews. Joseph Matthews died when Ann was two. He left his wife and three children a modest estate that included a 345-acre farm and two slaves. Ann’s mother remarried, to Edward Clements, by the time Ann was nine....

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McGroarty, Sister Julia (13 February 1827–12 November 1901), Roman Catholic educator and provincial, was born in Inver near Donegal, Ireland, and baptized Susan, the daughter of Neil McGroarty and Catherine Bonner, farmers. She was the second daughter and third of ten children. In the spring of 1831 the family followed several of Catherine Bonner McGroarty’s relatives to Ohio via Quebec. Neil McGroarty farmed briefly in Fayetteville, then turned to railroad and turnpike building, moving the family to Cincinnati. He died there of pneumonia in 1838. Catherine McGroarty raised her children with the assistance of her relatives, particularly physician brother Stephen Bonner; she did not remarry....

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Pommerel, Celestine (07 April 1813–07 June 1857), superior general of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the United States, was born Marie Pommerel in Feillans, Ain, France, the daughter of André Pommerel and Louise Pommiers. A wealthy, cultured, and deeply religious couple, Marie’s parents gave her an excellent education by the Sisters of St. Charles, Macon, France. She then entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in Lyons, France, where she received the habit in 1831. Two years later she made her vows and began teaching in the diocese of Chamberry....

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Powers, Jessica (07 February 1905–18 August 1988), poet and nun, was born in Mauston, Wisconsin, the daughter of John Powers and Delia Trainer, farmers. She counted the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, among her ancestors. During her lifetime over three hundred of her poems were published in journals, magazines, newspapers, and in six volumes of verse. While she was still in her teens, her poems began appearing in newspapers (which typically published poetry on the op ed pages in the early decades of the twentieth century). For financial reasons, her formal education ended after one semester at Marquette University’s School of Journalism in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1922–1923), the only school in the Jesuit university open to women at that time. Soon after leaving Marquette, she found work in Chicago as a secretary, but her real work remained poetry. She participated in an informal salon that met regularly at the Dominican Priory in River Forest on the outskirts of Chicago. Young men studying for the priesthood and young writers exchanged books and discussed poetry, drama, and theology. The first journal to publish Jessica Powers’s work was ...