The Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians was organized in 1894. In honor of the 100th anniversary of that event, in 1994, Sarah E. Murphy, Past National President, LAOH, compiled “Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians: A Century of Dedication to Religion, Heritage and Charity – Historical Information.” That document is recreated here in a shareable online version, with only minor changes made to correct typographical errors.
National Presidents, Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians
1894-1902: Directed by the AOH National Vice President
1902-1906: National Advisory Board – Mrs. Mary Quinn, Illinois, Chairman
1906-1912: Miss Anna C. Malia (later Mrs. Anna Malia Ruddy), Pennsylvania, elected as first National President, LAOH
1912-1916: Dr. Ellen Ryan Jolly, Rhode Island
1916-1921: Mrs. Mary F. McWhorter, Illinois
1921-1925: Mrs. Adelia Christy, Ohio
1925-1929: Mrs. Mary Timon Horan, Pennsylvania
1929-1933: Mrs. Mary Martin Silk, Massachusetts
1933-1937: Mrs. Anna K. Bryant, Minnesota
1937-1941: Miss Mary A. Kinsella, Massaschusetts
1941-1948: Mrs. Anna M. Carey, New Jersey
1948-1952: Mrs. Lenore Shea, Pennsylvania
1952-1956: Miss Lillian E. Fay, Washington, D.C.
1956-1960: Miss Mary F. Hurley, Massachusetts
1960-1962: Miss Kathleen J. Smith, New York
1962-1964: Mrs. Mary E. Bennett, New Jersey
1964-1966: Miss Doretta McManus, Minnesota
1966-1968: Miss Kathleen C. Roche, Massachusetts
1968-1970: Miss Mary L. King, Rhode Island
1970-1972: Miss Rita A. McDonough, Maryland
1972-1974: Mrs. Rita A. Murphy, New York
1974-1976: Mrs. Margaret F. Rust Fastow, New Jersey
1976-1978: Miss Margaret M. Webb, Massachusetts
1978-1980: Mrs. Violet M. Forciea, Minnesota
1980-1982: Miss Sarah E. Murphy, Maryland
1982-1984: Mrs. Zoe J. Foley, California
1984-1986: Miss Sarah E. Murphy, Maryland
1986-1988: Miss Sheila M. Clifford, Connecticut
1988-1990: Mrs. Mary Bradley McEnery, Rhode Island
1990-1992: Miss Dolores E. Voelker, New York
1992-1994: Mrs. Therese A. Kelleher, California
Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians National History
During the Omaha, Nebraska National Convention of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in May, 1894, the Daughters of Erin were organized. A specially appointed “Committee on Auxiliary” of the Ancient Order of Hibernians chaired by their National Vice President directed and guided the affairs of the organization. Initially it was considered to limit membership to only wives, sisters, and daughters of AOH members. After much discussion, it was decided to admit any woman of Irish descent who was a practicing Catholic and between the ages of sixteen and fifty.
Immediately, the Daughters of Erin flourished. Minnesota proudly claims the organization’s first Division in the country.
The primary purpose of the organization was to protect young immigrant Irish girls coming to the United States, to assist them in securing positions, and to offer support and encouragement. Also, the organization assisted the AOH in all of its efforts to perpetuate the memory of our ancestors, to aid the sick and needy, to defend the priests, our church and country.
Subsequent years brought larger delegations of the Daughters of Erin to the AOH National Conventions. They continued to function as State organizations and to appeal to the AOH for the formation of a Ladies’ Auxiliary. Conventions passed into history, and the Ladies’ Auxiliary was still a dream, and the Daughters of Erin remained as State organizations only.
The Ladies were discontented but not disheartened. They were determined to persevere. They knew that sooner or later they would be successful.
So it was that their commendable work of spreading the principles of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity, and their beneficient influence became more and more apparent. As a result, their membership grew. Many AOH members who initially were opposed to a national organization gradually became advocates for the cause. The women were nearing the goal of success.
In 1900 in Boston, Massachusetts a committee of women was appointed to confer with the brothers to suggest changes in the rituals and by-laws and to request permission to elect a National Board of Officers for the Ladies’ Auxiliary. The request to elect National Officers was denied, but a sign of recognition between the two organizations was allowed and it was agreed that biennial National Conventions be held in conjunction with the AOH with sessions presided over by the AOH National Vice President.
In 1902 in Denver, Colorado a National Advisory Board consisting of three members of the Daughters of Erin was elected. Mrs. Mary Quinn of Illinois was elected chairman and served until 1906 when the brothers granted the power of self-government. Also, a significant stride was made by the ladies at the 1902 Convention when a resolution was adopted to establish a four years’ scholarship to Trinity College, Washington, D.C. At that time, the College itself was only four years old. Following the Convention, fundraising efforts commenced.
At the 1904 National Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, the sum of $10,000 was donated to Trinity College by the Daughters of Erin. Those early leaders of the Order realized the need for and the value of good educational opportunities for the young women of the day. Only six years after Trinity College was founded and even before the official organization of the LAAOH National Board, the women became sponsors of a grant which would enable, in part, young Catholic women to obtain benefits and challenges of a strong Catholic education. The first three scholarship recipients became nuns and returned to Trinity College after graduation as teachers or administrators.
At long last, in 1906, at the National Convention held in Saratoga Springs, New York, the ladies’ dreams were realized. The AOH National Chaplain, Archbishop Farley of New York, was in Rome and unable to attend the Convention. However, he instructed the Rt. Rev. Msgr. McCready to convey the message to the AOH that he encouraged the formation of the Auxiliary. Thus, the Ladies’ Auxiliary, Ancient Order of Hibernians was given the right to elect National Officers and to draft a Constitution which upon approval of the AOH National President and the National Chaplain, would govern the organization. The first election of National Officers was held and great interest and excitement were manifested in the selection process for the four offices of President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Many favorite “daughters” were nominated. Miss Anna C. Malia (later Mrs. Anna Malia Ruddy) of Scranton, Pennsylvania was elected the first National President of the LAAOH; Mrs. Mary McCarthy of Westfield, Massachusetts, National Vice President; Mrs. Louise DuRoss, Utica, New York as National Secretary; and Mrs. Mary P. Daly of Minneapolis, Minnesota as National Treasurer.
In 1908, the LAAOH assembled in Indianapolis, Indiana for their first official National Convention. The usual Convention preliminaries were passed over quickly as the increase in the delegations was quite noticeable, and the delegates were anxious to hear the officers’ reports. The much awaited Secretary’s report revealed that during the two years, there had been a growth in membership of over 6,000 bringing the total membership to 56,000. The Treasury indicated a balance of $4,658.93. Two years before, there had been no treasury. Delegates were present from thirty-three states and from the Province of Quebec. Also in attendance at this Convention were three delegates who later became National Presidents and who continued their interest and activity until death, namely, Mrs. Ellen Ryan Jolly of Rhode Island, Mrs. Mary F. McWhorter of Illinois, and Mrs. Adelia Christy of Ohio.
Those early ears of the Ladies’ Auxiliary, Ancient Order of Hibernians were marked by rapid advancement. The Order’s goals and ideals and enduring principles attracted women of standing in all walks of life. Its members quickly realized the tremendous power of organization. Within Divisions, sick and death benefits were established; the unemployed were assisted, and the immigrant Irish girls were given needed support of all types.
Though newly organized, the Ladies’ Auxiliary was distinguishing itself by actual accomplishment of good. In many areas of the country, newly formed Divisions became the only women’s organization in the area. Its membership rolls reached 60,000 women. Its enthusiasm carried forth. At the National Board meeting of 1913 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the National Vice President, Miss B. A. Mahoney of Michigan was empowered to develop Junior Divisions. She energetically pursued this new program of the Auxiliary and the State of Pennsylvania accepted the challenge and organized four Junior Divisions. In her report to the delegates at the 1914 National Convention assembled in Norfolk, Virginia, Miss Mahoney stated:
“The future of the world depends upon the character of the education of the boys and girls. The Irish have suffered more than any other race from misrepresentation, and it behooves us to infuse into the hearts of the young, the true worth of our people and the glory of our cause and race. In these days when, all over the world, great and sudden changes are succeeding one another so quickly as to make us hold our breath, when men’s and women’s souls are everywhere being put to the test, when old institutions are being stirred to their base, surely, if never before, true men and women are needed – men and women who will be strong no matter what power attacks. Educate the children, and educate the nation.”
These words in 1914 of this wise and energetic woman are still relevant today. The Junior Divisions are now established and functioning well in the states of Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
To create a greater interest in the history of Ireland and of the Irish in America, the National Board, in its early years, instituted the Annual Irish History Essay Contests and awarded prizes to the winners. These awards continue today with substantial cash awards to the winners in the Elementary and High Schools’ categories.
Religious activities were faithfully attended by the members. Masses honoring St. Patrick and St. Brigid, the patron and patroness of the Order, flourished throughout the country, and the deceased members of the Order were remembered annually with special Masses.
In Norfolk, Virginia at the National Convention of 1914, the LAAOH National President, Mrs. Helen Ryan Jolly, LL. D. of Rhode Island, presented a recommendation to the delegates which was unanimously adopted. The National President recommended the erection of a monument in Washington, D.C. to honor the Sister-Nurses of the Civil War. The delegates further empowered Mrs. Jolly with the title of National Chairman, Nuns Memorial Committee, and she left the National Convention with the determination and spirit which would cause her dream to be realized ten years later on September 20, 1924 when the Monument was ceremoniously unveiled in Washington, D.C. Ten years of research, interviewing the nurses and survivors of the Civil War to gather authentic data, and prodding Congressional members to push through the required legislation, were lovingly pursued by this great early leader of our organization in order to achieve her goal.
Eloquent praise for the Nuns came many years prior to the monument’s erection from President Abraham Lincoln:
“Of all the forms of charity and benevolence seen in the crowded wards of the hospitals, those of some Catholic sisters were among the most efficient. I new knew whence they came or what was the name of their Order. More lovely than anything I have ever seen in art, so long devoted to illustrations of love, mercy, and charity, are the pictures that remain of those modest sisters going on their errands of mercy among the suffering and the dying. Gentle and womanly, yet with the courage of soldiers leading a forlorn hope, to sustain them in contact with such horrors. As they went from cot to cot, distributing the medicines prescribe or administering the cooling, strengthening draughts as directed, they were veritable angels of mercy. Their words were suited to every sufferer. One they incited and encouraged, another they calmed and soothed. With every soldier they conversed about his home, his wife, his children, all the loved ones he was soon to see again if he was obedient and patient. How many times have I seen them exorcise pain by their presence or their words. How often has the hot forehead of the soldier grown cool as one of these sisters bathed it! How often has he been refreshed, encouraged, and assisted along the road to convalescence, when he would otherwise have fallen by the way, by the home memories with which these unpaid nurses filled his heart!”
In order to raise the required $50,000, the LAAOH National President, Mrs. Mary F. McWhorter, sent a letter to the brother members of the AOH requesting assistance.
Upon the conclusion of the project which erected the Nuns of the Battlefield Monument, the Auxiliary was asked to donate the St. Brigid’s Altar to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. In May, 1927, National President Mary Timon Horan presented a check for $10,000 to the Most Reverend Thomas J. Shahan, D.D., Rector of the Catholic University of America. Furthermore, the drive for gold and jewels needed for the gold chalice and other altar accoutrements continued.
In 1928, the magnificent gift of a gold chalice, designed from the celebrated Kilmallock chalice of the Dominican Priory in Limerick, Ireland which dates to 1639 A.D. was donated by the Order.
This specially designed chalice for the Immaculate Conception Shrine is nine inches in height over all. The wide spreading base eight foil in form (plan) has eight panels, four of which carry the emblems of the Provinces of Ireland: Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaught. The emblems are enameled in heraldic colors. The front panel bears a cross in relief, richly chased and jeweled. The three remaining panels alternate with panels having the enameled emblems. The upper part of the panels are richly chased, four having “Eternity” line ornament alternating with four others having conventionalized “Eternity” line and Shamrock ornament.
The knop of simple, graceful outline, has four cherubs’ heads in bold relief – symbols of the Holy Spirit – with interlaced Shamrock ornament in low relief.
The calyx of the cup has eight panels of interlaced Celtic “Eternity” ornament bordered with conventionalized Shamrocks. The cup of the chalice proper is of substantial thickness.
The chalice is jeweled with nineteen tourmaline of emerald color, distributed on the cross, the collet and the panels of the calyx.
Accompanying the chalice was a 14 karat gold paten engraved with a Celtic Cross to match the Chalice. Also added were an illuminated missal with a specially designed leather cover encrusted with jewels, the work of Sister Hyacinthe Kelly of the Order of the Holy Cross. The dedication was prepared by the Very Reverend John Cavanaugh, C.S.C., D.D., former President of the University of Notre Dame. In 1929 this beautiful work of art was presented to the National Shrine for the St. Brigid’s Altar. Also in 1929, a Crucifix was presented to the Shrine which reflected the design of the celebrated Cross of Cong of the 12th Century. The corpus is of hand chased silver upon a cross of rose gold embellished with large jewels of a tone of green jade.
A hand carved Missal Stand from the wood of the pews where the “Nuns of the Battlefield” had actually nursed the wounded of the North and South was the next presentation. The pews of St. Francis Xavier Church in Gettysburg had been used as cots during the war and the Order was able to obtain the necessary wood for the Missal Stand which was designed and carved by Brother Michael F. O’Brien. The design was of Irish Medieval Art.
Candlesticks of gold with Celtic designs were presented in the following years. The members of the Order in Washington, D.C. faithfully hold their annual St. Brigid’s Day celebration at the beautiful altar dedicated to our patroness. Through the years, they have also been the most generous in donating linens and vestments for use at the National Shrine.
In 1935, Father Edward Galvin (later to be named Bishop) visited the National Convention in Baltimore, Maryland. He recounted the story of the suffering people in China and of the difficulties encountered by his small band of Columban missionaries. He asked for the financial support of the LAAOH to enable the work of God to be done. The delegates assembled at the National Convention voted to name the Columban Missionary Order as the principal charity of the Ladies’ Auxiliary. In fifty-nine years of association, the Auxiliary has contributed over one half million dollars ot the Columban Missions.
During World War I, the women of this Order contributed over $11,000 to the Mass Outfit Fund for the Catholic Army and Navy Chaplains of the United States. Contributions through the years have been made to the victims of earthquakes and famines throughout the world. Scholarships, church windows, church artifacts and vestments, charitable donations and corporal works of mercy are trademarks of the Order wherever it has been established.
In 1976, the LAAOH joined with the brothers of the AOH in presenting a case to display the vestments of Archbishop John Carroll to the Catholic University of America. This Bicentennial Gift was made in gratitude for the blessings showered upon the Irish who were welcomed to America. The National Boards of both Orders agreed that the case would be a significant gift to the University so that its visitors could view the exquisite vestments of America’s first Roman Catholic Bishop and who was of Irish descent.
At the 1978 National Convention of the Order in Killarney, Ireland, the women enthusiastically endorsed the proposal presented by the University of Notre Dame to establish the Hibernian Chair at that most prestigious University so long associated with the Irish. During the course of the Convention, the vote of both delegations was taken for the adoption or rejection of the Proposal. It was the first time in the history of both organizations that a combined vote of the delegations was held. It was a particularly pleasing victory for the LAAOH since they had campaigned hard for its passage. Their first joint vote was a project which would enhance the name of the Order and expand its capabilities for relating the story of the Irish to future generations and of the Irish commitments to their country and faith. Under the leadership of its National President, Margaret M. Webb of Massachusetts, and the AOH National President, Jack Keane of Missouri, the proposal was adopted.
Under the terms of the agreement between the Order and the University of Notre Dame, the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University administers the program and through a variety of ways seeks to promote the study of the Irish American experience. The Hibernian Research Award is the centerpiece of the endowment program. These grants seek to encourage the study of Irish America and are awarded to scholars who are working in this area of study. The competition for these awards is held annually and the winner is announced on St. Patrick’s Day. The first award was made in 1984 to Charles Fanning, author of “The Exiles of Erin: Nineteenth Century Irish American Fiction” and “The Irish Voice in America: Irish American Fiction from the 1760’s to 1880’s.”
Women recipients of the awards have been Catherine Tobin in 1988 who was born in Ireland and author of “The Lowly Muscular Digger: Irish Canal Workers in Nineteenth Century America”; also in 1988, Colleen McDannell, University of Maryland and author of “Women Writing: Three Generations of Irish Americans”; in 1989, Mary Lenore Martin, St. Mary College, Leavenworth, Kanas and author of “The Irish Members of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth and their influence on that Congregation”; and in 1991 to Eileen McMahon, Northeastern Illinois University, who authored “Blue, Grey, and Green: The Irish and the American Civil War.”
The Hibernian lecture series commenced in 1982. The Cushwa Center each year invites one or more distinguished scholars to lecture at Notre Dame on some aspect of the Irish experience. Students and faculty attend these public lectures. Such outstanding guest lecturers have included the late William V. Shannon, author, and former Ambassador to Ireland; in 1988, Timothy Meagher, National Endowment for the Humanities; Patrick Duffy, M.P. in 1989 who was the President of the North Atlantic Assembly; and in 1991 Geroid O. Tuathaigh, University College, Galway.
The Hibernian Endowment sponsors conferences at Notre Dame that relate to the study of the Irish in America. The major conference of this type was held in April, 1987 and discussed the theme of “Ireland and the United States: The Trans-Atlantic Connection, 1800-1980.” Scholars from both Ireland and the United States participated in this meeting. The focus of the Conference was to explore the relationship between Ireland and the United States in areas such as politics, economics, religion and immigration.
Another Conference sponsored by the Hibernian Endowment was held in 1991 to mark the Notre Dame Sesquicentennial Irish Meeting. The centerpiece of one phase of this conference was Jonathan Swift and eighteenth century Ireland. The other major gathering that took place at this time was the annual meeting of the American Conference of Irish Studies which explores Northern Ireland, Irish women writers, and Celtic and Christian Ireland.
Another benefit of the Fund is the awarding of scholarship assistance to sons and daughters of AOH and LAOH members. Approximately nine students annually receive tuition aid. Over $325,000 has been raised by the AOH and LAOH for the Notre Dame Hibernian Fund Campaign to preserve and promote the story of the Irish contribution to America and to the Roman Catholic Church.
Also at the 1978 National Convention, another milestone was attained by the women. The right to vote for the forthcoming Convention sites was granted to the LAAOH. Previously, only the AOH members determined the Convention sites. It was felt that the time had arrived for the women to have a voice and vote in such an important decision since the women shared in the expenses of every convention. Thus, the AOH National President Jack Keane and his National Board agreed, and for the first time, the LAAOH delegates to the Convention voted for the 1980 Convention site.
In the summer of 1985, the AOH dedicated an Obelisk at the Medal of Honor Grove, Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The Obelisk honored those recipients of the Medal of Honor not accredited to a State and of whom sixty-five are credited with Irish birth. The women assisted with the fundraising activities and donated $2,500 to the AOH for the Monument. In addition, the National Board of the Ladies’ Auxiliary, Ancient Order of Hibernians donated and placed two matching granite benches on either side of the Obelisk.
In 1985, after a long and thorough study of its Constitution, the women of the Order completed the work begun at the 1982 National Convention in San Antonio, Texas. The new Constitution was completed and signed by the AOH National President, Joseph A. Roche in October, 1985 at the joint National Boards’ meetings. By the signing of the Constitution, the word “Auxiliary” was deleted and the organization officially assumed its new name, Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, and gained jurisdiction over its own affairs.
On March 2, 1986, the LAOH National Board officially opened the 150th Anniversary Year of the founding of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America with a Mass of Thanksgiving at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. followed by a reception in Caldwell Hall of Catholic University and an exhibit of AOH memorabilia in the Mullan Library. This tribute to the Brothers of the AOH was the LAOH Anniversary Gift to them in recognition of their many accomplishments and in appreciation for the then ninety-two years of association which the women’s Order had shared with the men. Over four hundred persons attended the Mass, reception, champagne brunch, and exhibit. Eleven states and the District of Columbia were represented. An air of festivity reigned as strains of Celtic music and good conversation lightly filled the air. Tributes to the AOH were expressed by Dr. Robert Mahoney, Director of the Center for Irish Studies at Catholic University, Reverend Daniel P. Bowen, Deputy National Chaplain of the AOH, Anne Anderson, First Secretary of the Embassy of Ireland who represented the Ambassador, and the LAOH National President, Sarah E. Murphy of Maryland, who proposed a toast to the AOH.
Wherever the membership of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians has been established throughout the country, Catholic parishes have been the recipients of not only financial contributions, but of vestments, windows, scholarships, and countless hours of volunteer services. Furthermore, “Buy Irish” has been taken seriously by the membership. In additional to personal purchases of Irish products, the LAOH has sponsored or co-sponsored festivals throughout the country where they have been the purchasing agents of Irish products. Needless to say, travel to Ireland by the women of the Order has always been a favorite vacation choice!
The future of the LAOH looks bright. In the 1980s, it revised its Constitution and also entered into the new age of technology by computerizing its membership list and by being a co-sponsor with private corporations of two video productions, “Ireland, Land of Song,” and “Willie Week.” These twenty-two minute videos were released nationwide by Public Broadcasting Stations.
Its religious and educational programs for the future are ambitious, and its commitment is firm to adhere to the principles for which the Order was founded and to its motto of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.
In recent years, the LAOH has raised funds for the restoration of All Hallows Seminary and for the Library at Maynooth, both of which are in Ireland and from which many of the Order’s Chaplains through the years have received their training for the priesthood. The Order has made significant contributions to the Brothers of St. John of God for handicapped children, to the retired religious, and to many local scholarship funds in addition to the many nationally sponsored charitable endeavors.
The theme of the LAOH Centennial Celebration is A CENTURY OF DEDICATION TO RELIGION, HERITAGE AND CHARITY. The theme epitomizes the work of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians.
With God’s help, Mary’s guidance, and the blessings of St. Patrick and St. Brigid, the Order embarks on its second century undauntedly!