1st Women Graduates

Location: 3rd row of pillars north of Belden, on the sidewalk.

Installed:  Aug.  2017

The Reverend James E. Quigley, Archbishop of Chicago from 1903-1915, asked Father Francis X. McCabe, C.M., the third president of DePaul, to allow women to pursue higher learning at DePaul. The move would support the educational needs of the growing archdiocesan school system. In January of 1911, the doors of DePaul University were open to women for the first time. This was a very controversial move at the time, and DePaul was the first Catholic institution of higher education in the nation to allow women as students.

There were six communities of religious women that sent some of their members to DePaul in 1911. They were:

  • Sisters of Mercy (R.S.M.) Omaha, NE
  • Sisters of Providence (S.P.) St. Mary of the Woods, IN
  • Sister of Charity (B.V. M.) Dubuque, IA
  • Sisters of St. Dominic (O.P.) Sinsinawa, WI
  • Sisters of St. Francis (O.S.F.) Clinton, IA
  • School Sisters of Notre Dame (S.S.N.D.) Elm Grove, WI

Sr. Mary Teresita, S.P. and Sr. Mary Clemenza, B.V.M. were the first graduates of this group, and graduated in 1912. Both went on to teach in the Chicago Archdiocese, and Mary Clemenza went on to earn her a masters degree from DePaul in 1916.

Our first women graduates came from this group, they are Sr. Mary Teresita, S.P. and Sr. Mary Clemenza Leahy, B.V.M. They were both teachers in the Archdiocesan school system….exactly where… what level? (It would be great to find out.) I do have a picture of Sr. Mary Teresita Frawley, s.p. which I will use for the composition. It turns out that she passed away only five years after graduating (in 1912) with an A.B. in Education from DePaul. I do not have a picture of Sr. Mary Clemenza, B.V.M. But I do have pictures of her other community members from that time that I will use in the artwork. Mary Clemenza went on to her Masters from DePaul in 1916.


Our first lay woman graduate came in 1914. Her name was Ms. Minnie E. Daly. She was already working as a Chicago public school teacher when she came to DePaul in 1911. When she graduated (probably by taking extension classes, just like the women religious), she was commuting from Rodgers Park at Columbia Ave. Minnie was a professional school teacher, having graduated from the Normal School for teachers at fifteen years old. She eventually was made a principal. She never married and lived with her sisters (Eleanor and Elizabeth) and her brother in Rogers Park. The viewer will notice the empty chair in front of the two sisters. At this writing, the lead artist has yet to come across a photo of Ms. Daly. She lived another twenty years and died on June 30th 1934.