Mother Seton’s extraordinary legacy of doing good in the world contradicts the story told by our secular culture, which says that children are an obstacle to women’s achievement.
By Carrie Gress
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is a woman of many firsts: she was the first native-born American saint, she established the first Catholic orphanage in the United States, and she founded the nation’s first Catholic free school for girls, considered the seed of the American parochial school system. She also founded the Sisters of Charity, a women’s religious order which upon her death at the age of 46 had grown to many communities running orphanages and schools.
For all of this remarkable success in her short life, Elizabeth Ann was known then and now as “Mother Seton,” which doesn’t merely reflect her formidable accomplishments as a religious community foundress and leader, but something else, too – her deep devotion to her children. Her first role as “mother,” in ways both large and small, helped prepare her to become the Mother Seton we remember today.
Contrary to the belief today that children hinder a woman’s success, Elizabeth Ann never saw her children as an obstacle. Her remarkable work was largely motivated by the necessity of caring for them. Her children were what drove her efforts, not what stymied them.