Clarke, Mother Mary Frances
CLARKE, MOTHER MARY FRANCES
Foundress of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of Clarke College, Dubuque, Iowa; b.
Dublin, Ireland, March 2, 1803; d. Dubuque, Dec. 4,1887. She was the daughter of Cornelius and Catherine (Hyland) Clarke. Mary and three young Irish girls arrived as missionary teachers in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1833. After meeting with Rev. Terence J. Donaghoe, her lifelong mentor, she founded her order in November 1833. Bishop John Hughes requested Mother Clarke to settle in the New York diocese; but since it was already well staffed, she responded instead to requests by Bp. Jean Mathias Pierre loras and Pierre de smet, SJ, to serve the Diocese of Dubuque. Her sisters, the first in Iowa, were transferred to Dubuque in 1843; and Donaghoe, director of the order, was made diocesan vicar-general. That same year the order founded St. Mary's Female Academy (later Clarke College). After the death of Donaghoe in 1869, Mother Clarke made application for pontifical status, and a decree of final approbation was issued in 1885. She died after governing for 54 years, leaving schools that were pioneers in the late-19th-century movement for women's colleges.
Bibliography: m. l. doran, In the Early Days: Annals, 1833–87 (St. Louis 1925).
[m. st. v. berry]