The Daugthers of Charity arrived in California August 18,1852.
The Story of Seven Sisters
Our story as Daughters of Charity in California begins when seven Sisters journeyed from Emmitsburg, Maryland, to San Francisco, California, in 1852.
The Sisters traveled by stage coach from Maryland to New York, and from there by steamer to Panama, crossing the Isthmus by rail, boat and muleback.
Two Sisters contracted cholera and died on the Isthmus.
The five surviving Sisters journeyed on to arrive in San Francisco on August 18, 1852 where they founded an orphanage and school. Both establishments have continued through the years with others who carry on the mission of the first Sisters.
Today, the original orphanage continues as Mount St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth and the original school as Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory.
Our first Sisters were members of the first community of religious women founded on American soil. They were either born here in America or had emigrated from Ireland and were in their 30s or 40s when they journeyed to California.
These Sisters left a journal and memories of their journey from Emmitsburg to San Francisco, as well as a history and memoirs of their early years. In addition, Sister Frances McEnnis, the leader of this “band of sisters,” corresponded with her superiors in Emmitsburg on a regular basis over the 20-year period and many of her letters have survived.
As time passed, the next generation of Sisters came and carried on the mission of the pioneer Sisters. In 1906, the Sisters lived through the earth quake and fire, suffered losses and then became part of the relief and recovery effort to rebuild the City. Four Sisters corresponded with Emmitsburg during this tragedy and many of their letters have also survived.
From the journal, memoirs, early history and letters, we have come to know our first Sisters and their story as pioneers in the early days of San Francisco. Likewise, we have come to know our next generation of Sisters and their story, a continuation of the story that began with the five pioneer Sisters. This is a wonderfully rich story filled with adventure, struggles and service. It is the story of our early Sisters in San Francisco, California.
In 1856, six more Daughters of Charity traveled to California from Emmitsburg and arrived in “City of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels” to begin a school and orphanage. In 1858, as President Abraham Lincoln was denouncing slavery, the Daughters of Charity were caring for the sick poor of Los Angeles. In 1856, a new wave of Daughters came to California and settled in Santa Barbara. By the 1890’s, the Daughters opened hospitals, schools and orphanages in Santa Cruz, San Jose and Hollister.