Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

(1774 - 1821)

Portrait of Mother Elizabeth Seton from

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, known as "Mother Seton," is special to all Americans for historical, humanitarian and spiritual reasons.  Though born in the New York City area, she lived in Maryland from 1809 until her death.

Elizabeth Ann Seton was widowed at the age of 29 and left to care for her five children alone.  Her late husband's shipping business had been unstable, and money was scarce.  In order to support her family, she attempted to establish a school but met with little success.  To the dismay of her friends and relatives, she converted to the Catholic faith.  With encouragement and assistance from John Carroll, the first Catholic Bishop of Baltimore, Seton came to Baltimore and established the first free school for girls in 1808. This school, which was the forerunner of the Catholic school system, soon outgrew its original location on Paca Street and moved to Emmitsburg, Maryland in 1809.  Also in 1809, Seton founded the first American religious order for women known as the Sisters of Charity.  This religious order, later evolved into the Daughters and Sisters of Charity. The order grew throughout the United States and expanded into several foreign countries.  Beginning in 1814, Mother Seton and her religious daughters established schools, orphanages and hospitals throughout the world.

On September 14, 1975, Pope Paul VI proclaimed, "Elizabeth Ann Seton is a Saint," making her the first native born American to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.  The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is located in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 1986.

© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2001