Elizabeth Hirschboeck

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Elizabeth Hirschboeck
Born March 10, 1903
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Died September 20, 1986
New York, New York
Nationality American
Alma mater Marquette University
Occupation Humanitarian

Dr. Elizabeth Hirschboeck (March 10, 1903 – September 20, 1986), perhaps better known as Sister Mary Mercy, was a member of the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic and a renowned international humanitarian.

Early life and education[edit]

Elizabeth Josephine Hirschboeck was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Stephen and Katherine Hirschboeck on March 10, 1903. On December 2, 1922, while a student at Marquette University, Elizabeth survived a serious automobile accident. She was convinced that God spared her life so she could consecrate it more fully to Him. She expressed her desire to join the Maryknoll Sisters at that time; however, Mother Mary Joseph encouraged her to first complete her medical studies. She received a Bachelor of Science in 1927 and a doctoral degree in 1928 from the Medical School.

Humanitarian Work[edit]

Following graduation, she joined the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic as the first medical doctor to enter the foreign missionary group. She was thereafter known as Sister Mary Mercy. She worked in North Korea as a medical missionary from 1931 to 1940, when she returned to Maryknoll, New York due to her declining health. Three years later, Sr. M. Mercy left for Riberalta, Bolivia where she stayed for seven years. In 1951, at the height of the Korean War, she requested permission to travel to South Korea to help with the influx of refugees from the North. The United Nations approved her request, and she established a medical relief clinic in Pusan that aided thousands of people daily. This mission, described in her biography Her Name Is Mercy, was widely publicized as “the longest charity line in the world.” In 1954, Sister Mary Mercy left South Korea for the United States to become administrator of the Maryknoll Sisters’ Queen of the World Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, the first fully integrated general hospital in the city. Elected Vicaress General of Maryknoll Sisters Congregation in 1958, a position she held until 1970, Sr. M. Mercy returned to the group’s headquarters in Maryknoll, New York. In 1973, she moved to the lower east side of New York City to establish a mission to the poor of the city. She remained there until her death on September 20, 1986.


  • Her Name Is Mercy,1957

Archival Collections[edit]

Elizabeth Hirschboeck Papers, Marquette University [1]

The collection contains Sr. Mary Mercy Hirschboeck's outgoing correspondence to her family, Herbert and Myrtle Hirschboeck (her brother and sister-in-law), and John and Rosemary Hirschboeck (a second brother and sister-in-law). The correspondence documents Sr. M. Mercy's daily life, offering insights into early twentieth century-missionary and medical practices. Incoming and third-party correspondence relates to business transactions and donations. The collection includes numerous family photographs, ca. 1896-1928, and photographs of Sr. M. Mercy at her missions in [Bolivia] and Korea, and in Maryknoll, New York. Miscellaneous material consists of biographical information; a presentation copy of Her Name Is Mercy signed by the author; newsclippings; obituary notices; letters of condolence to Herbert Hirschboeck; and other records.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alumni Papers, Mary Mercy Hirschboeck Papers - Archives - Marquette University