The Life of an Archival Intern

This is a guest post by our archival intern for the semester, Jenna Brady, Mount St. Mary’s University class of 2023.

My time at this internship has been a very enlightening experience, as it has served to not only give me more information on the history of the Daughters of Charity, but has also been extremely instructive about the processes of archival work. I have had the opportunity to work on many different projects while I have been working at the Daughters of Charity Archives including recording West Provincial Newsletters from the 1970s, transcribing Italian letters, transcribing the oral history of Sister Isidore Allain, and assisting in putting together one of the exhibits that are on display. In this post, I would like to discuss my encounters with each of these projects and highlight some of the skills I have been provided with through my work.

The first project that I was able to focus on during the internship was going through the newsletters from the 1970s of the West Central Province. The newsletters chronicled many important events that happened for the sisters throughout that time including the canonization of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and many important meetings that would take place in Rome that the sisters would attend. The newsletters also served to chronicle the monthly lives of the sisters and their many placements throughout the province. These newsletters showed the progression of the province as things around them began to change in the world during the 70s. I recorded all of these newsletters into an excel sheet that will provide information about people and places mentioned within the newsletters so that it is easier to pinpoint the information.

While working in the archives, I also had the opportunity to listen to and transcribe the oral history of Sister Isidore Allain. This allowed me not only to hear Sister Allain’s story through her own words but also to understand all of the work that goes into transcribing an oral history. Its an experience that will certainly stick with me as I was able to hear a firsthand account of history from the direct word of the woman who lived through it. It also helped me to see how an individual story tied into the overarching period of the West Central Province.

The final project that I want to mention working on is the exhibit that recently opened in the archives on April 26th. There are now two new exhibits open in the archives both focusing on the lives and works of the sisters of the province. The exhibit that I was able to assist with highlights all those who live and work at the Emmitsburg campus in the different departments. It was an honor learning about all of the different departments and people who assist throughout the various ministries that occur here.

The experiences that I have had while working at the Daughters of Charity Archives have given me a deeper understanding of everything that is included in archival work and it has been an honor being able to learn so many new things. I have truly enjoyed my time here and look forward to learning even more about the sisters in the future.

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Our Four Campuses: Emmitsburg, Maryland

This is part one of a four-part series on the history of the four primary campuses in the Province, which correspond to the locations where the four provinces that formed the Province of St. Louise had their provincial houses:  Emmitsburg, MD; Albany, NY; Evansville, IN; and St. Louis, MO.

The foundation of the Emmitsburg campus, the oldest of the four campuses in the current Province of St. Louise, came from Mother Seton herself when she founded St. Joseph’s Free School.  Although this is applying the term anachronistically, the “campus” at the time would have consisted of the Stone House, where the Sisters lived when they first arrived, and the historic St. Joseph’s House, also called the White House.

Mary Jamison’s needlework of St. Joseph’s Academy in 1812, the oldest “photo” of the campus in the collection

As St. Joseph’s Free School developed into St. Joseph’s Academy, more buildings were added to the campus.  By 1902, when the Academy was re-incorporated as St. Joseph College, the campus featured classroom space, student dorm rooms, a library, art studios, living quarters and chapel for the Daughters, and an area for the Provincial Council, as well as a Seminary for the formation of the Sisters.

St. Joseph’s Academy, 1850

Between 1964 and 1965, the current St. Joseph’s House was built, allowing the Sisters, Seminary, and Council to move away from the College.  The move took place on September 12, 1964, with employees on hand to assist the Sisters in the move. 

The building’s original layout featured a central courtyard with four spokes:  “A Wing” was Seminary, “C Wing” the postulatum, “E Wing” the Council offices and Administration, and “K Wing” the Chapel and Shrine of the recently beatified Mother Seton.

The new Provincial House under construction, 1963, with the old campus in the background

In 1972, the Villa St. Michael, the Sisters retirement facility in Baltimore, permanently moved to the Provincial House in Emmitsburg, filling the top floors of rooms.  In 1975, with the canonization of Mother Seton, the process began to convert the Daughters’ chapel into a place of public veneration at the tomb of the Saint.  In 1979, the Seton Shrine Museum opened in its current location beneath the Basilica.

The large amount of downsizing that the Province and the campus had experienced after the 1960s allowed for the Daughters to begin to partner with good works in the area.  From 1992 to 1994, construction for St. Catherine’s Nursing Home took place, offering a home and care for the elderly that continues to this day.

In 2008, the Marian Center closed.  Having been created in 1953 to spread devotion to Mary, this ministry created Miraculous Medals and red and green Scapulars, along with the distribution of educational materials.

In 1998, the Seminary, now Interprovincial and covering all provinces of the United States, moved to Los Altos California (it has since moved to St. Louis). 

In 2011, the four provinces merged, and the modern iteration of the Provincial Archives was created.  Moving from their spot at the end of E-wing, the new repository made it one of the largest archives for a community of women religious in the country.  It opened to researchers in 2013

Touring the archival repository under construction, October 2012

In 2013, the Daughters sold A-Wing of the campus to Homes for America to create Seton Village, a series of low-income apartments for senior citizens, fulfilling a valuable need in Northern and Western Maryland. With E-wing now empty, in the early 2020s, the Daughters began talks to partner with Mount St. Mary’s University for a new home for their Physician’s Assistant program.  Sister Teresa George, the current Provincial Treasurer, discusses the collaboration on the Live Significantly podcast in the episode “Sister Teresa George:  Synergy.”

Other changes are coming to the Seton Shrine, as they expand their space on the campus to present high-quality historical and spiritual exhibitions on the life of the community’s American Foundress and the Sisters of Charity Federation communities.

The campus on a summer day, 2014

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The Daughters of Charity and First Ladies

Throughout the 20th and 21st century, the Daughters of Charity have had the opportunity to work with not only the Presidents of the United States, but with the individuals who have held the title of First Lady of the United States.  These ladies’ friendship, duty of service, and collaboration are well-documented here in the Provincial Archives!

Mamie Eisenhower

First Lady Mamie Eisenhower and husband Ike had a cordial and neighborly relationship with St. Joseph College and Provincial House.  The Daughters were located only a short trip away from the Eisenhower’s Gettysburg farm, where the couple would retire to at the end of Ike’s Presidency.  The President and First Lady would often visit the College at Emmitsburg when they drove the trip from Washington to Gettysburg. 

On July 1, 1958, during Mother Lepicard’s visit to the United States, she; Sister Isabel Toohey, the Visitatrix; Sister Eleanor McNabb, president of Providence Hospital; and Sister Margaret Flinton, a French professor at St. Joseph College visited the White House and presented the First Couple with an anniversary gift. 

On March 14, 1959, St. Joseph College awarded Mamie Eisenhower an honorary doctorate.

President Eisenhower shakes hands with “Doctor” Mamie Eisenhower as she receives her honorary doctoral hood from Sister Hilda Gleason

Jackie Kennedy

Jackie Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic First Lady.  Her husband’s last rites were administered by Father Oscar Huber, C.M., the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Dallas, Texas.  The Daughters taught at the parish school and collected the students’ condolences to give to the First Lady.  She responded with a kind note of thanks.

“Lady Bird” Johnson

The Daughters’ relationship with the Johnson family began in the Johnson’s native Central Texas.  When the First Couple’s first grandchild was born, she was delivered at Seton Medical Center in Austin, a hospital run by the Daughters.

“SetonNews,” the official newsletter of Seton Medical Center, Austin, July 1967

As the Daughters rallied around President Johnson’s War on Poverty, they also remained close with the First Family.  After President Lyndon passed away in 1973, only a few years after leaving office, Lady Bird was on hand to unveil a memorial plaque at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama as part of the 75th anniversary of the hospital.  Gracious as always, the former First Lady penned a personal thank-you note after the gala weekend!

Rosalynn Carter

On July 6, 1978, President and First Lady Carter visited the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg.  Only three years after Mother Seton’s canonization, this was the first (and, to date, only) time a sitting President visited the Shrine of the first American saint.  Sister Mary Clare Hughes, the Visitatrix at the time, called the First Family a picture of true simplicity, and the experience as “a lesson for me in true simplicity.”

First Lady Rosalynn Carter with Sister Jerome Nossell

Nancy Reagan

With its location on the outskirts of Washington, St. Ann’s Center for Children had long had diplomatic and political relationships with the global officials of the domestic and foreign realms.  First Lady Nancy Reagan seems to have been the most frequent visitor, with three separate visits in 1981, 1985, and 1986.

First Lady Nancy Reagan shakes hands with Sister Margaret Ann Wooden, then a Child Care Supervisor, as Head Administrator Sister Elyse Staab looks on.

Barbara Bush

Prior to becoming First Lady in 1989, Second Lady Barbara Bush and her husband, George Bush, Sr., raised money for Morehouse School of Medicine in support of historically Black colleges and universities.  Several prominent doctors at Providence Hospital, which the Daughters had operated in Washington, D.C. since the Civil War, were advocates and graduates of Morehouse School of Medicine.

Dr. Edward Mazique, Second Lady Barbara Bush, and Dr. Ed Saunders, October 1983

Hillary Clinton

During her time as Senator from New York, former First Lady Hillary Clinton took the time to visit charitable institutions throughout the state, such as Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton in 2001.

Sister Mary Anne Brawley with Senator Hillary Clinton, 2001

When she was First Lady, she, like some of her predecessors, had a relationship with St. Ann’s Center for Children and visited at Christmastime, 1995 (along with Socks the First Cat).

Sisters of St. Ann’s Center for Children with First Lady Hillary Clinton.  Left from Clinton:  Sisters Catherine Fitzgerald, Marie Cecile Nguyen-Thi-Ven, Mary Helen Edelen, Teresa Buckley, Paula McGuire, Mary Clement Hemler, Josephine Murphy

Laura Bush

As a part of a campaign to combat heart disease, and in celebration of the work in the cardiovascular field, First Lady Laura Bush stopped by St. Vincent’s Hospital in Jacksonville. 

Dr. Jill Biden

On her pathway to earning a doctorate in education, Jill Jacobs – the future Dr. Jill Biden – spent a year teaching alongside the Daughters of Charity, as well as several other religious communities, as member of the English department at St. Mark’s School in Wilmington, DE for the 1976-77 school year.

English Department at St. Mark’s High School, 1976-77.  Jill Jacobs, standing, 4th from the left

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