Monday, March 14, 2011

Fearless Females - Day Fourteen

From The Accidental Genealogist: "Newsmakers? Did you have a female ancestor who made the news? Was she famous or notorious? Did she appear in the social column?"

I have a variety of female ancestors who've appeared in various social columns over the years. I like social column postings. They help me place people in a context of location, amongst peers and friends, and help me relate to time and place in history, something I still struggle with in my family history research. But in thinking about this post, none of these social column postings are immediately leaping to mind as in any way more or less noteworthy than others, so I'm taking a different route.

Bucks County saint to be inducted into Women's Hall of Fame (

Drexel University founder, Anthony J. Drexel (1826-1893) was my 3rd great grandfather. Katharine Drexel was his niece, the daughter of his brother Francis Anthony Drexel. I can in no way do justice to Katharine Drexel's story in this short blog post. In glancing through some memorabilia from my grandmother's collection there's more to St. Katharine's story than the Philadelphia heiress who entered a convent. There's a young woman who lost her father and stepmother in a short span of time, inspired by missionaries wanting to aid Native Americans, who visited the Dakotas in 1887. Katharine entered religious training under the Sisters of Mercy in 1889, founding the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1891.

Mother Katharine Drexel was beatified by Pope John Paul II in November, 1988, and canonized in October, 2000. I remember my grandmother telling me about Mother Katharine's miracles as each new one was discovered, moving her farther along the journey to sainthood. I have her travel diary from her trip to Rome for the beatification in 1988, her entry for Sunday, November 20th starting off with, "The big day at last." My grandmother died in May, 2000, not living to see Mother Katharine Drexel sainted.

Last week, The National Women's Hall of Fame announced St. Katharine Drexel as one of its 2011 inductees. Located in Seneca Falls, New York, I hope to attend some of the festivities in September.

Baldwin, Lou. A Call to Sanctity: The Formation and Life of Mother Katharine Drexel. Catholic Standard and Times, 1988.
Hanley, Boniface. A Philadelphia Story. Mother Katharine Drexel Guild, 1992.
"Katharine Drexel," Wikipedia. Online. Accessed 14 Mar 2011.

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