Mary Frances Clarke

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Mary Frances Clarke 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 the illiterate in Philadelphia. In 1833, Clarke organized her community, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For ten years, the sisters labored among the city's downtrodden before departing for Dubuque 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 Mary Frances 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 which have educated generations of Iowans. Mary Frances Clarke died in 1887.