Ursuline Convent, Burning of

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URSULINE CONVENT, BURNING OF (11 August 1834). In the early 1830s, a self-proclaimed "escaped nun," Rebecca Theresa Reed, began spreading tales of immoral acts committed in the Ursuline convent school of Charlestown, Massachusetts. Tensions peaked in 1834 when another nun, Elizabeth Harrison, fled to the home of her brother. She later returned voluntarily, but rumors that she was being forcibly detained brought forth a mob; the sisters and pupils were expelled, and the convent was burned. The prompt acquittal of the mob leaders, the state's refusal to reimburse the Ursuline order, and the thinly veiled satisfaction voiced by the press led to a nationwide campaign against Roman Catholicism in the following decades.


Billington, Ray Allen. "The Burning of the Charlestown Convent." New England Quarterly 10 (1929).

———. The Protestant Crusade, 1800–1860: A Study of the Origins of American Nativism. New York: Rinehart, 1952. The original edition was published in 1938.

Grimsted, David. American Mobbing, 1828–1861: Toward Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Ray AllenBillington/a. r.

See alsoAnti-Catholicism ; Catholicism ; Know-Nothing Party ; Nativism ; United Americans, Order of .