Harrington, Margaret [Mother St. Pierre] (1828–1872)

By: Sister Ignatius Miller, O.S.U.

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: February 7, 2020

Margaret (Mother St. Pierre) Harrington, second foundress of the Galveston Ursulines (see URSULINE SISTERS), known as the Soldiers' Friend, was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1828. After her father's death she accompanied her mother to New Orleans. When her mother died in 1840 Margaret became a ward of the Deveroux family. In 1844 she entered the Ursuline Convent in New Orleans and took the name St. Pierre. In 1859 disagreement over religious observances had seriously disrupted the Galveston Ursuline community, then composed of Ursulines from several French convents. When Bishop John M. Odin asked the New Orleans Ursulines for a strong religious to lead the Galveston community, Mother St. Pierre was sent. She was immediately elected superior, an office she held until 1870. She restored peace among the sisters and improved standards enough that the school attracted a large number of students.

In August 1861, when the port of Galveston was blockaded and the city under bombardment, Mother St. Pierre offered the Ursulines' new school wing to city officials as a hospital and selected sisters from the community to serve as nurses. When Gen. John Bankhead Magruder's forces arrived before the battle of Galveston (January 1, 1863), Magruder sent carriages to convey the Ursulines to safety. Mother St. Pierre offered the carriages instead to the crowds of women and children who had come to the convent for shelter. "They had turned their convent into a hospital ward," wrote one of the Confederate soldiers later, "and when I went in, boys in blue and boys in gray—more than eighty of them—were laid out in rows on blankets. The nuns treated them all alike—didn't make any difference to them. . . . They had even picked up a few negroes who had got shot somehow and had them laid out there too."

Mother St. Pierre died in Galveston on December 4, 1872. Her name heads the list of Ursulines on the monument erected in 1918 in Washington, D.C., to honor the nuns of the Civil War battlefields. For many years, delegates of the Grand Army of the Republic and of Confederate veterans' organizations came to decorate her grave in the Ursuline convent cemetery in Galveston.

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Catholic Archives of Texas, Files, Austin. S. M. Johnston, Builders by the Sea: History of the Ursuline Community of Galveston, Texas (New York: Exposition, 1971). Sister Ignatius Miller, O.S.U., Ursulines of the Central Province (Crystal City, Missouri: Ursuline Provincialate, 1983).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Sister Ignatius Miller, O.S.U., “Harrington, Margaret [Mother St. Pierre],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/harrington-margaret-mother-st-pierre.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995
February 7, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: