Category Archives: U.S. Presidents

November 25, the Kennedys, and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth

Jackie Kennedy letter

Letter from Jackie Kennedy to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (Courtesy Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Archival Center)

Guest post by Kathy Hertel-Baker, Director, Archival Center, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (KY).

November 25. Most people, if they associate this day with anything at all, associate it with the funeral and burial of a young President, taken from us too soon, with a young widow and her grieving family, and a three-year old child, saluting the body of his father, too young to understand the horror of what was happening. But, before that somber day in 1963, November 25 had a very different association for the Kennedy family. On that day in 1960, John F. Kennedy, Jr. was born at Georgetown Hospital in Washington, D.C., at that time administered by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. The SCNs cared for the newborn and his elated parents, then President-elect John Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline. ‘John-John’, as he was affectionately known, arrived a month early, much to the surprise of his young parents. His father was in Florida at the time and received word of the birth while on the plane back to Washington. Sister Mary Evangelist, SCN, the administrator at Georgetown, presided over the crowd of reporters in the lobby waiting for word of the birth, releasing as much information as she was allowed and trying to keep everyone calm and comfortable. She met Mr. Kennedy when he finally arrived at the hospital and escorted him to his wife’s room. When she returned to speak with the press, she commented that the President-elect “was all smiles. We all congratulated him. Everybody is excited. We never had anything like this.” A few days later, Jacqueline Kennedy sent a personal note of thanks to the Sisters who had cared for her and the newest addition to their family. She included a check with the note, asking the Sisters “to get something nice for Christmas for all the nuns who were so good to me.” The Sisters used this gift to purchase a set of china to use in the Georgetown convent. Little could they have known the deep sorrow that would be enveloping them just three short years later. But until then, November 25, was a day of joy and celebration for the Kennedy family and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth who helped bring their son into the world.


Some of the china purchased by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth with Jackie Kennedy’s gift (Courtesy Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Archival Center)

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Filed under John F. Kennedy, Sisters of Charity Federation, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, U.S. Presidents

Daughters of Charity and the Kennedy Assassination

Kennedy motorcade

President Kennedy’s motorcade passes by a group of spectators in downtown Dallas. The Daughter of Charity cornette can be seen in the foreground. The names of the Sister and the photographer are unknown.

November 22, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. At the time the Daughters of Charity had a thriving presence in Dallas, including health care ministry at St. Paul Hospital (they never ministered at Parkland), social work ministry at Marillac Social Center, and school ministry at Holy Trinity Parish. A large group of children from Holy Trinity School, accompanied by the Sisters and by their pastor, Father Oscar Huber, C.M., witnessed the motorcade that day. Standing at the corner of Lemon and Throckmorton, one Sister who was there later recalled waving to Kennedy as the motorcade passed. Later that day Father Huber would administer the Last Rites to Kennedy at Parkland Hospital.

Father Oscar Huber is buried here, at the Vincentian cemetery at St. Mary's of the Barrens in Perryville, Missouri. He died in 1975.

Father Oscar Huber is buried here, at the Vincentian cemetery at St. Mary’s of the Barrens in Perryville, MO. He died in 1975.

Additional resources about November 22, 1963

For more on Father Huber’s involvement with the events of November 22, 1963, see: Patrick Huber, “Father Oscar Huber, the Kennedy Assassination, and the News Leak Controversy: A Research Note”. Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 110, Number 3, January 2007, pp. 380-393

See the website of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza for online exhibits and other materials about the Kennedy assassination.

The November 20 issue of the Des Moines (IA) Register carried a story about Kennedy which includes a picture of Kennedy taken by a Daughter of Charity, Sister Angela Fitzgibbon. Sister Angela died in 1997.

The November 2013 issue of D Magazine includes a photo essay with images of the city of Dallas before and after JFK’s death. One image shows three Daughters of Charity praying at the Grassy Knoll. The image of the Sisters comes from Bettman-Corbis, not from our collection.

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Filed under John F. Kennedy, U.S. Presidents, Vincentians

Abraham Lincoln and the Daughters of Charity

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

While we have no original Lincoln materials in our collection, Lincoln’s surviving papers do contain a few references to the Daughters of Charity.

There is one known Lincoln letter to a Daughter of Charity, dated September 22, 1862 from Lincoln to Sister Mary Carroll of Providence Hospital requesting services of a Catholic Chaplain for hospitalized soldiers. The original letter resides in a private collection.

Lincoln signed the Acts of Incorporation for two Daughter of Charity institutions in Washington, DC: St. Ann’s Infant Asylum (March 3, 1863) and Providence Hospital (April 8, 1864). Our collection does not include the original documents for either institution.

The correspondence of Mother Ann Simeon Norris (provincial superior of the DC Province of the United States during the Civil War) contains a letter from Mother Ann Simeon to Congress, December 8, 1864, asking that the Sisters’ habit material be imported free from duty. In the letter, she notes that she had written to Lincoln about the matter, that Lincoln had replied that he would support such a measure but that it would require an act of Congress. Lincoln’s actual reply to Mother Ann Simeon does not survive. It is not in our collection nor is it listed in any standard collection of Lincoln’s letters. Legislation was introduced in the Senate which would have remitted the import duties paid by the Sisters, but it did not reach Lincoln’s desk. See our June 7, 2013 blog post for an image of Mother Ann Simeon’s letter and history of the legislation.

The Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress contain two letters concerning Daughters of Charity. Images and transcriptions of both items are available online.

1. Letter of William A. Hammond, Surgeon General, to Lincoln, July 16, 1862, concerning Catholic and Protestant nurses: … “I think it is a fact that the Catholic nurses predominate. This is because we found in the Sisters of Charity, a corps of faithful, devoted and trained nurses ready to administer to the sick & wounded No such organization exists among the Protestants of this country, and those whom we have employed cannot compare in efficiency and faithfulness with the Sisters of Charity. The latter are trained to obedience, are of irreprochable moral character and most valuable are their ministrations …”

2. Letter of Sister Emerentiana Bowden to Lincoln, April 23, 1864, thanking Lincoln for pardoning a Union soldier.

Further online resources for the study of Abraham Lincoln:
Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler – online version of the multi-volume book originally published in 1953 by the Abraham Lincoln Association, of Springfield, IL. This is the standard scholarly edition of Abraham Lincoln’s surviving correspondence.

The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln

Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana at the Library of Congress


Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, U.S. Presidents