Collection RBSC-ARC-1732 - Sister Mary Gonzaga collection

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Sister Mary Gonzaga collection

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  • Variations in title: Previously known as the Sister Mary Gonzaga (Georgiana) Barrie collection

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6 cm. of textual records

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Biographical history

Sister Mary Gonzaga was born Georgiana Ffarington Barrie in 1825. Her parents were Sir Robert Barrie and Julia Wharton Ingilby Barrie. Although her parents were Protestants, Sister Mary Gonzaga chose the life of a Catholic nun. Sister Mary Gonzaga entered the Convent of Our Lady of Mercy in Bermondsey on October 5th, 1848 and received her habit on April 10th, 1849. She professed her vows on May 1st, 1851. Sister Mary Gonzaga was a close friend of Florence Nightingale's, having accompanied her to Crimea to nurse sick and wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War. Barrie was one of the Catholic nuns who volunteered for the mission and was unpaid for her work. Nightingale nicknamed her "Cardinal" in her letters, and Barrie’s nickname for Nightingale was "Pope."

After the Crimean War, Barrie founded the Hospital of Saint Elizabeth for Incurables in London in 1856. Barrie resigned as Mother Superior in 1866, largely due to the political opposition of the Cardinal, who wanted to oust Barrie and the Sisters of Mercy nuns. She returned to Bermondsey, where she continued to care for the sick and teach until her death in April of 1873 of typhus.

Custodial history

Purchased from Goodspeed Dealers in Boston in 1966 and 1967 by the Woodward Library. The letters were transferred from Woodward Memorial Library to Rare Books and Special Collections in 2013.

Scope and content

This group of letters consists, with minor exceptions, of correspondence from Sister Mary Gonzaga (Georgiana Barrie) (1825-1873), a Sister of Mercy from Bermondsey, to her sister Julia (Mrs. Edward Boodle) during the Crimean War. There are a few letters that were written after the Crimean War. A few letters were written by Mrs. Boodle to Gonzaga and one letter was written to Boodle by Alfred Green. There are also assorted reproductions of photographs, certificates, and drawings related to Sister Mary Gonzaga and the Sisters of Mercy.

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The letters are arranged chronologically, with the earliest letter at the front, and the later letters towards the back. The first two letters were written before the Barrie joined the convent in Bermondsey and the last 3 letters were written while Sister Mary was in London at her hospital, or had returned to Bermondsey after resigning from her post in St. Elizabeth’s. The 15 letters in between were written approximately a month apart, discussing the conditions in Crimea and requesting various supplies and items.

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RAD compliant Finding Aid prepared by: Kristine Protacio, February 2015.

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