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Charles I. White. Life of Mrs. Eliza A. Seton (New York, 1853), frontispiece; portrait also stamped in gold on cover and spine.


Though married in an Episcopal service, Elizabeth Ann Seton converted to Roman Catholicism in 1805, two years after the death of her husband William Magee Seton. Even before her conversion, she and other philanthropically-minded women, Isabella Graham among them, established the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children in New York City. After becoming a Catholic, she relocated to Baltimore and opened a school for girls. In 1809, she founded the Sisters of Charity, the first female apostolic community in the United States. She would later become the first person born in the United States to be canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

Mother Seton’s memoir, along with a history of the order of the Sisters of Charity, was compiled by the Rev. Charles Ignatius White. The work describes the devotion of the Sisters of Charity to the life of servitude and caring for the poor. In it, a member of the community recalls:

“‘For many months … we were so reduced, that we often did not know where the next day’s meal would come from.’ On Christmas-day they considered themselves fortunate in having some smoked herrings for their dinner, and a spoonful of molasses for each. But these privations, far from being unacceptable to the sisters, were welcomed as marks of the divine protection; and they vied with each other in making light of the inconveniences they had to suffer. Mother Seton, notwithstanding the difficulties to be encountered, seemed to be the more rejoiced that the Son of God found her community worthy of sharing his cross.” (p. 266)



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