Margaret Stanislaus O'Malley

O'Malley, Margaret

Time Period


Notable Facts

Founder and first Mother Superior of the Vermont Sisters of Mercy, a group that has contributed greatly to the education and well-being of the greater Burlington area.

Personal Information

Date of Birth


Date of Death


Primary Residence






Historical Significance

Margaret O'Malley was born in Galway, Ireland where she received an early education from private tutors and attended Model Schools. In 1868, she came to Manchester, New Hampshire to work in the American mission. She joined the Sisters of Mercy on December 2, 1868. In Manchester, she also received the habit March 12, 1869 and professed vows August 19, 1871.

In 1872, Sister Mary Stanislaus, formerly known as Margaret O'Malley, was named to the St. Johnsbury Foundation, where she and four other Sisters of Mercy struggled for two years to bring education to the poverty-stricken population in that area. Unfortunately, the parish was unable to support the Sisters, so they departed from St. Johnsbury in 1874, only to be invited that same year to staff St. Mary's, the Cathedral parochial school in Burlington.

Bishop Louis de Goesbriand invited Sister Mary Stanislaus and three other Sisters to Burlington, where they took charge of teaching the 400 children in the school. They stayed in the unheated rooms on the top floor of the school. Overcoming disease and fatigue caused by poor living conditions and stressful working conditions, the Sisters managed to set roots in the fertile Champlain Valley.

In 1876, St. Patrick's Convent was completed and the Foundation became independent of Manchester on June 5th of that year. Mother Stanislaus was canonically appointed the first Mother Superior on June 5, 1876. She served as Mother Superior of the Vermont Sisters of Mercy for 24 years.

During her tenure, she bought 35 acres of land in Burlington, and sold some of it in order to raise funds for the construction of Mt. Saint Mary Academy, a convent and boarding school for girls. She created branch houses in Montpelier (1989), Barre (1900), and White River Junction (1907).

Mother Stanislaus oversaw the staffing of St. Mary's School, the Pearl Street House, St. Patrick's Academy and Cathedral Grammar. With Ella Baird, she developed a grading rubric for elementary schools, and expanded the curricula at the elementary and high schools.

Mother Stanislaus also began the regular visitation of the sick and the poor and routinely visited the Poor Farm.

Organizations or Movements

  • Vermont Sisters of Mercy


  • Mother Superior

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • "The Face of Mercy; Vermont 1872-1991"
  • Sisters of Mercy Archives
  • Myrick, Gertrude. "Margaret O'Malley." In The Vermont Encyclopedia. Edited by John Duffy. University Press of New England, 2003.