Skip to main content

Caldwell, Mary Gwendoline


Philanthropist who was instrumental in inaugurating the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.;b. Louisville, Ky., 1863; d. New York City, Oct. 10, 1909. Mamie, as she was called, was the daughter of Mary Eliza (Breckenridge) and William Shakespeare Caldwell. She and her younger sister, Mary Elizabeth (later the Baroness Moritz von Zedtwitz), moved to New York City with their father after the death of their mother. In 1874 their father died, leaving his daughters a considerable fortune. They attended the Academy of the Sacred Heart, New York City, where they first made the acquaintance of Father John Lancaster Spalding, a fellow Kentuckian on leave from the Diocese of Louisville, who was then assistant pastor of St. Michael's Church in New York and later the first bishop of Peoria, Ill. Through her friendship with Bishop Spalding, Mamie became interested in the idea of a university or higher school where Catholic clergy could be educated.

At the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884, Miss Caldwell's offer of $300,000 for the founding of a national school of philosophy and theology was made known to, and accepted by, the bishops in council, with the stipulation of the young heiress that she was to be considered the founder of the institution. Thus was inaugurated the work that later led to the establishment of the catholic university of america.

In 1896 Miss Caldwell married the Marquis Jean des Monstiers-Merinville in Paris, with Bishop Spalding officiating. Three years later the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind., awarded its Laetare medal to the Marquise. However, on Oct. 30, 1904, the world learned through an Associated Press announcement that the former Miss Caldwell had renounced Catholicism. The Marquise, who died in her stateroom on the North German liner, the Kronprinzessin Cecile, as it lay anchored outside New York, was buried in Louisville.

Bibliography: c. j. nuesse, The Catholic University of America: A Centennial History (Washington, D.C. 1990). c. w. gollar, "The Double Doctrine of the Caldwell Sisters," Catholic Historical Review 81 (1995) 372397.

[d. f. sweeney]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Caldwell, Mary Gwendoline." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 18 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Caldwell, Mary Gwendoline." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (January 18, 2019).

"Caldwell, Mary Gwendoline." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved January 18, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.