Friday, March 18, 1881: A message for the ladies

Posted on April 30th, 2006 – 10:16 PM
By Ben Welter

When I stumbled across this Minneapolis Tribune story, my first reaction was to squirrel it away for timely release on St. Patrick’s Day. But it’s about more than a religious holiday. It’s a chance to see the world through the eyes of Thomas Langdon Grace, the second bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The South Carolina native, a member of the Order of St. Dominic, was installed in 1859 and served till his retirement in 1884.

On St. Patrick’s Day 1881, he addressed a crowd gathered outside the bishop’s residence in St. Paul, across from the Cathedral on Sixth Street. He spoke of the great famine that had plagued Ireland, praised the mettle of the Irish people, applauded local efforts to assist them – and admonished women not to get involved in “discussion of questions foreign to their minds.”


Bishop Grace’s Address – Condemnation
of Ladies’ Land-Leagues.

Archbishop Grace
The Rev. Thomas Langdon Grace, second bishop of St. Paul.

Thirty years ago the first celebration of St. Patrick’s day in the then territory of Minnesota was observed by about fifty or sixty persons in front of the old Central House on Minnesota and Bench streets, and in the evening by a supper at John Rogers’, on Robert street. The annual celebrations of succeeding years, with immense parades, feasts and frolics, were finally abandoned, upon the advice of Bishop Ireland and others of the clergy, who felt that such celebrations led to excess, and since then the observance of the day has consisted mostly of church services and evening reunions under auspices of the clergy. One fixed feature of the day in St. Paul is a visit to venerable Bishop Grace by the Catholic societies and congregations of the city.

Yesterday, after the services at the Cathedral, Sixth street, in front of the bishop’s residence, and the Wabasha and St. Peter street crossings, were densely crowded. At 12:20 Bishop Grace appeared at the door of the residence and Mr. Timothy read the annual address, in which he alluded to the condition of affairs in Ireland and the co-operation of all classes and all creeds in the effort to secure the rights of the people against their oppressors – the English landlords. Michael McCarthy, a young lad of about 16 years, and president of the cathedral cadets, next came forward and spoke a neat address of congratulation to the bishop, and concluded by asking his blessing upon the cadets.


Bishop Grace then delivered an extempore address, which, it is needless to say, was most intently listened to. He commenced by thanking them very sincerely for this manifestation of their love and appreciation. My trust in you, he said, as a body, has never flagged, and my gratification to see that you are still attached to the church is very great. It was very gratifying for him to meet them on this anniversary of St. Patrick, and especially so when thinking of the past condition of Ireland. He alluded to the condition of the Irish people a year ago as then truly sad. A great famine then prevailed, and was sweeping off a large portion of the population, which had fortunately been stayed by the generosity of friends the world over. That has passed away, and for its removal the thanks of all were due to a beneficent and all-wise Providence. But even this famine had had its beneficial effects. The eyes of the civilized world were fixed on the wrongs done to the people and their attention drawn to the fact that the periodical calamities which from time to time afflicted Ireland were due and traceable to the oppression of the English landlords. The verdict of the civilized world has been pronounced and the government brought face to face with the iniquities of England’s administration of that country. The advantages of this result cannot be overestimated. But this has not been accomplished without the action of the Irish people themselves, who have borne themselves nobly in spite of the injustice of English legislation and the palpable misgovernment to which it led.

For the first time for a long series of years we see the Irish people united – all parties, all factions and all creeds – united in the determination that these wrongs to Ireland shall be righted. If the friends of Ireland continued to adhere to the principles which have heretofore governed them, it must necessarily follow that success will crown their efforts. If unfortunately they shall forsake the right course and enter upon a wrong policy, they can neither expect success nor the world’s sympathy.

“I have the utmost confidence in the prudence and policy of the leaders now engaged in the cause, and my confidence in them is still unshaken. Those of us in St. Paul who are engaged in aiding the cause will not, I know well enough, lend their influence to the violation of the principles of right and justice.

“But there is one thing in St. Paul from which I must withhold my approval. It is the forming of ladies’ leagues. There is something repulsive in this calling out of the mothers and daughters from their homes to form leagues and political clubs for the discussion of questions foreign to their minds, their training and their duties as mothers of families and guides to their daughters. This forming of ladies’ leagues, I am glad to say, did not originate with the women themselves. It is foreign to their womanly instincts and an infringement upon the sacredness of the home life.

“If you wish the co-operation of woman, let it be fixed some other way. You need not be afraid of a lack of sympathy on their part or of any failure of a proper appreciation by them of the wrongs and injustice done to the Irish people. Leave them to the expression of their feelings in their own way, which you can trust will be earnest and unmistakably in favor of the right and in condemnation of the wrong. And do not force them to adopt the ways of men by holding public meetings at night and discussing subjects of which they know nothing. I thank you for the honor you have done me in making this call this morning.”

At the conclusion of the bishop’s address Father Shanley was called for, and delivered a humorous but stirring address, after which the crowd dispersed.

The celebration of the day ended last evening, with entertainments at the Opera House and at Pfeifer’s Hall, both of which were crowded.

Cathedral of St. Paul
Here’s what the Cathedral of St. Paul and the bishop’s residence — at Sixth Street between Wabasha and St. Peter — looked like around 1860. The first mass in the modest cathedral, St. Paul’s third, was celebrated in 1858. Construction costs totaled $33,647. (Photo by Rodolph Ransom, courtesy

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