Saint Theodora/Mother Theodore Guerin believed the best way to solve the issues of poverty and inequality is through education. Education increases the realm of employment opportunities, thereby enhancing the ability to provide for one’s family. Better employment positions lead to more lucrative jobs.
When St. Mary-of-the-Woods College opened its doors in 1840 no other school for higher education for women existed in Indiana. In fact, no university allowed admission to women until 1833 when Oberlin College in Ohio allowed their entrance. In 1837, Wesleyan College in Georgia became the first all-women’s college. The medical field became more of a professional possibility for women after Elizabeth Blackwell, the country’s first female doctor, founded the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1850.
In 1852, Mother Theodore wrote to her superior in France, “A woman in this country is only yet one-fourth of the family. I hope that through the influence of religion and education, she will eventually become at least one half, the better half.”
The many elementary schools Mother Theodore and the Sisters of Providence established in Indiana and Illinois offered excellent educational opportunities. Although the religious community desperately needed income, they accepted students who could not pay the tuition. The Catholic schools also accepted students belonging to other Christian denominations. Protestants consisted of approximately one-third of their enrollment.
Mother Theodore’s legacy lives on in every student from St Mary-of-the-Woods College. Her presence is felt on those hallowed grounds, and her words continue in the hearts of her graduates.