Seton, Elizabeth Ann

Seton, Elizabeth Ann (Bayley)

(1774–1821) Catholic religious foundress, saint; born in New York City. The daughter of prominent physician Richard Bayley, she married William Seton (1794) and had five children; in 1803 he died of tuberculosis in Rome, where they had journeyed hoping the climate would cure him. Attracted to Catholicism by friends there, she became a convert after her return (1805), alienating many associates, and moved with her children to Baltimore, where she founded an elementary school. In 1809 she pronounced vows as a nun and began forming a religious congregation, formally instituted in Emmitsburg, Md., as the Sisters of Charity (1813). As superior general she founded many religious communities and schools and was renowned for sanctity. She was canonized in 1975, becoming the first American-born saint.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.