Mary Frances Clarke, BVM
Frances Clarke acted as a catalyst in a community that has made
her mission as real in 1833 as it is in 1984."
Jane M. Daly, 1984
Frances Clarke, BVM, born in Dublin, Ireland in 1803, played
an important part in the educational and religious formation
of this state. She and four other religious women emigrated to
America and worked with the poor and illiterate in Philadelphia.
In 1833, Clarke organized her community, the Sisters of Charity
of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For 10 years, the sisters labored
among the city's downtrodden, before departing for Dubuque, Iowa
at the invitation of Bishop Mathias Loras. There they founded
St. Mary's Academy, the first Women's college in Iowa. After
suffering a disastrous fire in 1849, the Academy was reestablished
by Clarke as Mount St. Joseph's Academy and College, today known
as Clarke College. The Sisters of Charity also started various
elementary and secondary schools around the state that have educated
generations of Iowans. Clarke died in 1887. Clarke was inducted
into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1984.