Thursday, August 29, 2013

What a Lady!

Mother Catherine Spalding  SCN
     In 1813 a group of young women in Kentucky, joined together to form a new Catholic Religious Order, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.  The sisters elected Catherine Spalding, aged nineteen, as their leader.   She must have had an extremely dynamic personality.  Nazareth is located in Nelson County, Kentucky, just south of Louisville.  In 2003 she was named to a list of the most influential people in the history of Louisville and Jefferson County.  She was the only woman.
     The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth had started a school in Louisville as well as an orphanage.  In 1832 a cholera epidemic hit Louisville and the sisters were at the forefront of caring for victims.  The sisters offered to care for the dying if the city council would cover expenses.  The city council and mayor agreed.  Below is a transcription of  a letter written to the city council when their expenses were not covered and she returns some money to the council. 

To the Mayor & Council of the City of Louisville,

At that gloomy period, when the Cholera threatened to lay our city desolate, & nurses for the sick poor could not be obtained on any terms – Rev’d Mr. Abell, in the name of the Society of which I have the honor to be a member, proffered the gratuitous services of as many of our Sisters as might be necessary in the then existing distress: requiring merely, that their expenses should be paid. – This offer was accepted; as the order from your honorable board, inviting the Sisters, will now show. – But, when the money was ordered from your Treasury to defray those expenses, I had the mortification to remark that instead of saying: “the expenses of the Sisters of Charity,” the word services was substituted. – I immediately remonstrated against it, - & even mentioned the circumstances to the Mayor & another gentleman of the Council. – & upon being promised that the error should be corrected, I remained satisfied that it had been attended to; until a late assertion from one of the pulpits of the city leads me to believe that it stands yet uncorrected on your books; as these same books were referred to in proof of the asertion. – If so, Gentlemen, pardon the liberty I take in refunding you the amt. paid for the above named expenses. Well convinced, that our Community, for whom I have acted in this case, would far prefer incurring the expense themselves rather than submit to so unjust an odium. –

Gentlemen, be pleased to understand, that we are not hirelings. - & if we are, in practice, the Servants of the poor, the sick & the orphan; - we are voluntarily so:
But we look for our reward, in another & a better World.
With sincere respect, 
Your obt. Sert. 
Catherine Spalding, 
Sister of Charity. 

($75. ----) 

     There is a big difference between having you expenses covered and being paid for your services.   Firstly, expenses could be considerably more and secondly, the sisters wouldn't want to be seen collecting a salary.  Catherine Spalding had no trouble speaking her mind.  The City Council eventually greed to go back and cover expenses.

Note:  I suspect that Mother Catherine Spalding is somehow related because there are several Spaldings in our family tree.  They seemed to live in the same areas of Maryland and later Kentucky.  At this time I am uncertain of the exact relationship.  Based upon her letter to the city council, I would be proud to have her in my family tree.  I wrote about her because she was such an interesting person and because during my research of the Nazareth Academy (attended by several ancestors) I found at least three granddaughters of Clement and Henrietta Gardiner (my GGGG-Grandparents) who were members of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Sister Harriet Gardiner was one of the original six founding sister of the order.  Sister Harriet had been a childhood playmate and friend of Mother Catherine.  She founded a school in Vincennes, Indiana.  Mother Frances Gardiner was a superior of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth after Mother Catherine.  Sister Clare was younger than the others and joined about 1819. 

Read more letters of Mother Catherine Spalding

1.  "Sisters of Charity of Nazareth - Mother Catherine Spalding Biography." 2011. 26 Aug. 2013 <>

2.  "The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Kentucky",  Anna Blanche McGill, Encyclopedia Press, New York, 1917

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