Mary Frances Clarke

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Mother Mary Frances Clarke, B.V.M., (March 2, 1803, Dublin, Ireland – December 4, 1887, Dubuque, Iowa) was the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In 1833, Clarke and four other women traveled from Dublin to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to help teach the children of Irish immigrants living in the city. With the help of Father Terence Donaghoe, Clarke founded the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They remained in Philadelphia for the next 10 years, and the order grew to 19 women.

Mother Clarke and the community moved to Dubuque in 1843 after being invited to move to the Diocese of Dubuque by Bishop Mathias Loras. Shortly after arriving in Dubuque, Clarke and the SCBVM sisters saw a need for education, especially for young girls. They established a boarding school near Dubuque, which would eventually become known as Clarke College.

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