Daughters of Charity-Early History

early history

A tradition of Service

Our origins and legacy

St. Vincent de Paul & St. Louise de Marillac
In 1633, the Daughters of Charity were founded in Paris, France, by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac. Deeply concerned with the poverty and suffering surrounding them, they brought together a group of young women who shared their dedication of helping the poor and the sick. These first twelve peasant girls were unlike other Sisters at the time in terms of both social and economic status and their desire to live and work among those in need. This challenged conventions when Sisters predominantly lived cloistered lives with less interaction with individuals suffering in the streets.

On the eve of St. Andrew’s Feast, they bound themselves to Christ with simple vows that were to be reaffirmed annually. St. Vincent de Paul wrote:

“The Daughters of Charity have… for a convent, the houses of the sick; for cell, a rented room; for chapel, the parish church; for cloister, the streets of the city; for enclosure, obedience; for grille, the fear of God; and for veil, holy modesty.”

Working as a young group of Sisters, the newly formed Daughters of Charity set up soup kitchens, organized community hospitals, established schools and homes for orphaned children, offered job training, taught the young to read and write, and improved prison conditions.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
In the 19th century, inspired by the work of these original Daughters,
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton founded a community of Sisters in the United States that later joined with the Daughters of Charity in France. This became the first community of Daughters in the United States. The Daughters of Charity Archives, housing the historic collection and library, is located at the site where she lived and served in Emmitsburg, Maryland.