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Lowell Stories: Women's History

Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul - Civil War and St. John’s Hospital

Image #1: ‘An Innocent Victim,’ (Daughters of Charity) by S. Seymour Thomas, from George Barton's “Angels of the Battlefield: A History of the Labors of the Catholic Sisterhoods in the Late Civil War. (1898).

By Stephanie Donahue and Martha Mayo

The women of St. Patrick's parish inspired to perform acts of mercy, started a sewing group to help the disadvantaged. From their efforts in conjunction with the Daughters of Charity the first Catholic hospital in Lowell was established on Market Street. Sister Rose’s Hospital, named in honor of the director of their group. In 1867, the Daughters of Charity pooled their resources to purchase the Livermore home in Belvidere (now Saints Campus). It would be renamed St. John’s Hospital in tribute to their pastor, Fr. John O’Brien. The Daughters of Charity (Sisters Celine, Martine, Matilda, Amelia and Mary Frances) who staffed this new hospital had served as nurses during the Civil War (1861-1865). Sisters Celine and Martine were with General Benjamin Franklin Butler. Sisters Matilda, Amelia and Mary Frances were nurses at the Satterlee Military Hospital in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the Civil War, the nuns would not accept any pay for their work. All they asked for was food, housing and medical supplies to care for the sick and wounded. Later, they received US Government Pensions for serving in The Civil War. Three of these nuns are buried at St. Patrick’s Cemetery and have Flags marking their gravesite.


In Lowell for nearly 100 years the Daughters of Charity served St. John’s Hospital. They expanded their volunteer work as the hospital grew. At one point, they sewed surgical gowns, sheets, layettes, johnnies, bandages, aprons and curtains. Later, they organized a variety of fundraisers to benefit the hospital. During WWII they operated the switchboard, assisted in the kitchen and ant other areas required as a result of war-time staff reductions. By the 1950s, they began a coffee shop and gift shop. The profits from sales became an additional source of revenue for the Hospital. Daughters of Charity, also supervised the Junior Volunteers (Candy Stripers) who handled the library and gift carts, as well as mail and flower deliveries. The Daughters of Charity left St. John’s Hospital in the early 1960s and service to hospital was continue by members of the Ladies of St. John.