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Eliza Maria Gillespie 1824 ~ 1887


Eliza Maria Gillespie, educator, was born near West Brownville, Pennsylvania, February 21, 1824. She removed with her parents to Lancaster, Ohio, while quite young, and was educated by the Sisters of St Dominic at Somerset, Perry County, and at the Convent of the Visitation, Georgetown, D. C. Thomas Ewing, Secretary of the Treasury under Harrison, was her godfather, and James Gillespie Blaine, Secretary of State, under Gatfield, was her cousin. While in Europe she was a leader of society and with Ellen Ewing, afterward wife of General W. T. Sherman, collected large sums of money for the aid of the sufferers from the famine in Ireland, adding to the fund by their tapestry, handiwork and magazine stories, which they wrote in collaboration.

She was received into the congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in 1853 under the religious name of Mother Mary of St Angels and made her novitiate in France, taking her vows from Father Moreau, founder of the order of the Holy Cross. She returned to America in 1855 and was made Superior of the Academy of St Mary's, Bertrand, Michigan, which in 1856 was removed to Terre Haute, Indiana, where it was known as St Mary of the Immaculate Conception, and she became the Mother Superior of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. She obtained for the institution the shelter from the legislature and added to the immediate curriculum of the Academy, foundation for a professor's conservatory of music. She multiplied academies of the order to the number of thirty and upwards in different parts of the United States.

When the Civil War called for nurses in the army, she left her home, organized at Cairo, Illinois, the headquarters, enlisted a corps of sisters, established temporary and permanent hospitals and used her influence at Washington to further the comfort of the sick and wounded soldiers and with the help of her corps she cooked gruel and even fed the moving army as well as those detained in the hospital. Her labors broke down her health, and at the close of the war she was an invalid. The order in the United States was separated from the European order in 1870, and she was made Mother Superior, filling the office two terms, when she retired to become Mistress of Novices. She contributed to the Catholic periodicals, notably war sketches for the Ave Maria. She died at the Convent of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Indiana, March 4, 1887.

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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