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Saint Mother Theodore: Truly a Woman for All Time

Saint Mother Theodore Guerin died May 14, 1856.

Today is Women’s Equality Day – a day in which we remember the passage of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote in 1920. The amendment was first introduced in 1878 but did not pass until 1920. In 1971, the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day.

This day makes me think about our own dear Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. She came to this country in 1840 and died in 1856 — 22 years before the amendment was first introduced. Saint Mother Theodore came to the United States at a time when few women were in leadership roles. As a woman she struggled to be taken seriously.

Mother Theodore wrote, “A woman in this country is never seen transacting the least business, religious no more than others. Eyes are opened wide at Terre Haute and everywhere when I appear to pay bills or to make purchases. Everyone is astonished.”

Despite the many challenges she faced, Mother Theodore persisted in her mission and was not deterred. She was able to open an academy for girls less than a year after arriving from France. She went on to establish schools throughout Indiana and Eastern Illinois. She opened two orphanages in Vincennes and a free pharmacy at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and Vincennes. Her accomplishments in such a short period are amazing for any human — but even more astounding as a woman who had few rights.

Mother Theodore wrote, “Woman in this country is only yet one-fourth of the family. I hope that, through the influence of religion and education, she will eventually become at least one half — the “better half.”

Although the world has changed significantly in the more than 175 years since Mother Theodore began her mission, there is still much we can learn today from this strong woman. Her tenacity in difficult circumstances serves as a guide for us all as we navigate our own journeys.

To get to know this incredible woman you can watch the short video, “Saint Mother Theodore Guérin: A Woman for All Time.”

You can also read her own words in the book “Mother Theodore Guerin: Journals & Letters .” We also invite you to find favorite quotes on our website.

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Mary Riley

Mary Riley

Mary Riley is director of operations for White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Prior to her current role, she served as the marketing manager for some ministries of the Sisters of Providence including White Violet Center for Eco-Justice and the Volunteer Services.

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  1. Avatar S. Denise on August 26, 2018 at 9:50 am

    Mary, Iove reading about MTG on any day; and thanks for linking her legacy to this particular day.

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