Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Mother Mary Aloysia Hardey 1809 ~ 1886


As we trace the lineage of Mother Mary Aloysia Harley we turn to one of the brightest pages in the history of America. It records the eventful day when under the leadership of Leonard Calvert a company of English Catholics sailed from their native land to lay the foundation of civil and religious liberty in the new world. Among these high-souled pilgrims was Nicholas Hardey, a man of undaunted courage and of unflinching fidelity to his faith. Another, the grandfather of Mary Hardey, came in direct line from this loyal son of the mother church and was well-known in the colonial times throughout Maryland and Virginia. He lived near Alexandria and was an intimate friend of George Washington. Frederick William Hardey was the third son of Anthony Hardey and inherited the winning qualities of his father. In 1800, he married Sarah Spalding.

The year 1803 is noted in the history of America as the year of the Louisiana Purchase. When this last territory came into the United States, a tide of emigration flowed steadily for a number of years in the direction of the Gulf of Mexico. Among the pioneers from Maryland was Mr. Charles Anthony Hardey, who fixed his residence in lower Louisiana. The young Republic of America after separating from the mother country, entered at once upon a life of intense energy, and the church was not the last to feel the inspiration of freedom. Before the close of the eighteenth century the orders of Carmel and the Visitation were established in the United States. The first decade of the nineteenth century saw the birth of Mother Seton's congregation in Maryland, and about this time two religious communities sprang up in the newly settled regions of the far West, the Lorettines and the Sisters of Nazareth in Kentucky.

A little later came the Daughters of St. Dominic. On the Atlantic coast, the Ursulines had founded convents in New York and Boston. In 1815, when Bishop Dobourg was appointed to the See of New Orleans, his first care was to provide educational advantages for the children of his vast diocese; hence when in Paris, he made application to Mother Barat for a colony of nuns. He had been silently preparing among the Daughters of the Sacred Heart an apostle for the American mission in the person of Mother Phillipine Duchesne. On the fifteenth of December, 1804, Mother Barat accompanied by three nuns arrived at Sainte Marie and took possession of it in the name of the Sacred Heart. Mme. Duchesne was anxious to undertake the work for the church in the new field and far off regions of America. After fourteen years of waiting, her earnest desires were realized. She was accompanied by Mme. Octavie Berthold, who was born a Calvinist, her father having been Voltaire's private secretary.

Mme. Hardey profited so well by the training she received and made such progress in humility and self-renunciation that her period of noviceship was abridged, and she was admitted to her first vows, March, 1827. May, 1827, Mme. Matilda Hamilton, assistant superior of the School of St. Michael died. Like Mme. Hardey to whom she was related, Mme. Hamilton sprang from one of those English Catholic families who sought liberty on the shores of the Chesapeake. Her father left Maryland in 1810 for upper Louisiana. In those days the advantages of education in this part of the world were very great.

After taking her first vows, Mme. Hamilton was sent to Cateau and later accompanied Mother Audi to St. Michael, where her death occurred. In 1832, the Convent of St. Michael counted two hundred inmates.

In the spring of 1832, the Asiatic cholera appeared for the first time in America, having been carried to Quebec. The pestilence turned southward, advancing with the current of the Mississippi, along whose borders it mowed down thousands of victims. During the next spring the contagion swept over Louisiana, and the Convent of St. Michael was included in its destructive course. Mme. Audi and Mme. Aloysia Hardey stood valiantly by this little community and remained at their post of duty. After Mother Hardey's service as superior at this convent, she was appointed superior of the Convent of New York.

Her work in Louisiana was the beginning of a long and eventful career in labors for the church in various institutions which were established throughout the country. She assisted in the foundation of orders in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Buffalo, New York. In 1846, she established a convent in Philadelphia. In 1847, she purchased the Cowperthwaite estate, ten miles from Philadelphia, and established a school known as Eden Hall, and confided it to the care of Mother Tucker, mistress-general of Manhattanville. The two foundations of Halifax and Buffalo made heavy demands on the community of Manhattanville.

Among the many foundations organized by Mother Hardey, there is probably none more interesting in history than that of Detroit. In 1852, Mother Hardey established a free school in New York City for the instruction of poor children. The Manhattanville School owes its establishment and organization to her. In 1863, she began labors for the church in Cuba, establishing a boarding school for girls in Sancto Spiritu, Cuba. At one time when it was decided that Mother Hardey should leave Manhattanville and be succeeded by another superior this met with the earnest disapproval of Archbishop McCloskey, and a letter was received from Mother Barat at the head of the order in France written to Archbishop Hughes promising that she would never withdraw Mother Hardey from Manhattanville. In addition to this she organized parochial schools and many of the prominent educational institutions of the church in existence today. She was the instrument of the church for the foundation in Cincinnati. At the time of the memorable and terrible conflagration in Chicago in 1871, Mother Hardey organized bazaars in all her houses and sent the proceeds to be distributed to the most needy sufferers.

When the terrible days of 1871 had drawn to a close. Mother Hardey was appointed assistant-general and deputed to visit the convents in North America, which required several months, as at this time they numbered twenty-five houses. After this service, she was permanently transferred to Paris to give to Mother Goetz the benefit of her experience and judgment in determining matters of importance to the church. Mother Goetz's death occurred January 4, 1874. She was succeeded by Mother Lehon as superior-general and her first act as such was to send Mother Hardey to America to attend to business matters for the Manhattanville property.

It was during this visit to America that she established the Tabernacle Society in connection with the sodality of the Children of Mary. In 1876, after her return to France, she was sent by the mother-general to visit the convents of Spain. Fifty years of labor, zeal, and devotedness to the good of others is the record of this noble woman. In September, 1877, when the superiors from sixty houses in the various parts of the world met for the purpose of a spiritual retreat, Mother Hardey requested that she be permitted to return to America with some of the visiting superiors owing to her failing health, and on the 20th of October, the little party sailed for New York. On the 18th of July, she sailed on her return journey to France.

She accompanied Mother Lehon on several tours to various convents in Belgium, England and Italy. In 1882, she was again sent to New York for the purpose of saving the Manhattanville property, the encroachments of the city threatening its very existence. While in America on this mission, she experienced a severe illness, and it was doubtful whether she would be able to make the return voyage, but on February 18, 1884, she sailed for France, very weak and at the risk of her life. Although she never regained her health, gradually failing physically, she remained mentally strong until the very last. On Thursday, the 17th of June, 1886, at the age of seventy-six, she died, after sixty years and ten months' service for her church. Thus ended the life of one of the most remarkable women in America in labors for the advancement of education and religion. 

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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