Margaret Anna Cusack, Irish Revolutionary Feminist Nun and Scholar, Born

  • April 20, 1829

Margaret Anna Cusack is born to an aristocratic family of English origin in Coolak, Co. Dublin; she is the founder of the first Poor Clares convent in the west of Ireland and also a talented writer who publishes on the issues of social injustice. She was raised under the precepts of the Church of England and viewed social justice through Christian concepts. In 1853 she joined the Anglican Sisterhood. She quickly became disillusioned with what she considered the petty concerns of the group. Upon leaving five years later she wrote, I do not believe in offering the gospel of talk to starving people.

In 1858 she became a convert to the Roman Catholic Church. One year later she entered the Order of Poor Clare nuns and took the name Mother Francis Clare.

The Irish Famine of 1879 plunged the country into crisis. Margaret Anna responded by raising great sums of money to feed the poor. By now her outspoken ways and success at feeding the poor made her the target of government and church leadership. Church and public resistance forced her to shut down her Famine Relief Fund and look to England for support of her vision.

Her next effort was to establish another convent and to propose development of an industrial school for women … complete with a day center for their children. In 1884 Margaret Anna founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Seeking funds to support her sisters work with women and children, in 1885 she set off for America. Soon after arriving, she established a home for migrant women who, upon arrival in New York, often found themselves to be homeless and jobless.