In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, we continue our series on Daughters of Charity and U.S. Presidents.
Our collections contain no Abraham Lincoln manuscripts, but Lincoln’s papers do contain references to the Daughters of Charity. Here is one, taken from the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress ., It is a letter from Sister Emerentiana Bowden to Lincoln, dated April 23, 1864, thanking Lincoln for pardoning a Union soldier.
The Library of Congress site also provides a transcription, which reads as follows:
St Matthew’s Academy
Cor. 18th & N. York Avenue
Washington, D. C.
April 23rd, 1864.
Accept our heartfelt thanks for the Pardon of John Connor, prisoner in Fort Delaware, which, at our instance, you were so kind as to grant yesterday. You will ever have the prayers & blessing of the afflicted wife & four almost starving children whom you have relieved, and I might say, restored to life, by restoring to them, through their Father, the means of subsistence.
May He upon whom we must all call for pardon be ever propitious to you, prays
Yours Very Respectfully,
Sister Emerentiana Bowden
Sister of Charity.
Lincoln’s order for pardoning John Connor appears in Volume 7, p.309 of the collected works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler. From Basler, we know that Lincoln was pardoning Connor for desertion.
The thank-you letter is written from St. Matthews Academy in Washington, DC. Sr. Emerentiana was missioned there in 1860. We do not know the precise connection between Sr. Emerentiana and Connor’s family. Perhaps Connor’s children were pupils at St. Matthew’s Academy. Perhaps she knew the family through their parish. Perhaps she met the family in the course of visiting the poor, which the Sisters often did when they weren’t doing their official duties. Sadly, the full story has been lost to history.
Here’s what we do know about Sr. Emerentiana Bowden:
Community name: Sr. Emerentiana Bowden
Baptismal name: Elizabeth
Father’s name: John Bowden
Mother’s name: Henrietta Derby
Born in Ireland, January 26, 1817 (some community sources say 1821). We do not know when she came to the United States.
Vocation date February 19, 1837
Vow date: March 25,1839
1840: St. Ann’s School, Pottsville, PA
1843: St. Francis Xavier’s School for Little Boys, Emmitsburg, MD
1844: St. John’s Free School and Asylum, Frederick, MD
1845: St. Patrick’s Asylum, Rochester, NY
1850: St. Joseph’s School, Washington, DC
1851: St. Joseph’s Central House, Emmitsburg, MD
1852: St. Peter’s School and Asylum, Wilmington, DE
1853: St. Joseph’s Central House, Emmitsburg, MD
1856: St. Joseph’s Asylum and School, Richmond, VA
1857: St. Vincents Home and School, Washington, DC
1860: St. Matthews School, Washington, DC
1865: St. Peter’s House, Lowell, MA
1869: St. Joseph’s Central House, Emmitsburg, MD
Sister Emerentiana left the community in 1870. We have no information on what became of her after she left the Daughters of Charity.
For more about Lincoln and the Daughters of Charity see our November 9, 2013 blog post.