Download Image (3.5 MB)
Sister Blandina Segale set a rule for herself when she came to the Southwest from Ohio in 1872: "Do whatever presents itself, and never omit anything because of hardship or repugnance." It was a simple rule, but not easy to carry out in rugged, lawless New Mexico of the late 1800's. Her letters verify that she was able to abide by it with skill, courage and compassion.
Sister Blandina took her vows in the Order of the Sisters of Charity in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1868. Four years later she was sent to Trinidad, Colorado, to teach school. The school she found was in poor condition and attended mostly by boys, some of whom were larger than she. She soon had the situation under control, however, earning the respect of students and parents alike.
She proceeded to serve the town whenever she saw need. And there was much need. Particularly notable were her efforts to help inmates of the jail. She treated gunshot wounds and promoted law and order, disregarding danger to herself. It was during this period that she is said to have met and befriended Billy the Kid.
Before leaving Trinidad, Sister Blandina was responsible for building a new school. No money was available, but she organized the townspeople as volunteers and did much of the work herself. The resulting school earned her a reputation for being able to build without money, and she was called upon to repeat this success wherever she went. Her drive and ingenuity enabled her to raise funds when needed.
Sister Blandina was sent to Santa Fe in 1876 to run the girls' orphanage. She went to work, taking in day students and working as a governess to earn money for necessities at the orphanage. Hearing of her abilities, Bishop Lamy commissioned Sister to build a trade school in Santa Fe. Again no money was allotted, but with volunteers and donations she managed, over a period of four yeras, to get the building erected. It was never used as a school, but became St. Vincent's Hospital. During this time, Sister took charge of managing and funding medical care for indigent patients, even building coffins to help defray burial costs when necessary.
In 1881 she was sent to Albuquerque to teach music at the public school in Old Town, teaching much more than music in her eight years there.
The railroad had caused an influx of people of all sorts, and Sister saw need for reform and assistance almost everywhere. She again supplemented her teaching duties with efforts to aid the sick and the needy, as well as the Indian and Spanish-American people whom she felt were being taken advantage of by the U.S. government and by "get-rich-quick" individuals. She was given charge of building New Town Academy (later St. Vincent's Academy), east of Old Town, and headed fund-raising for the public school when hard times threatened to close it in 1885.
In 1889 Sister returned to run schools in Colorado and in 1894 was called back to Ohio where she continued to work among the Italian immigrants of Cincinnati.
Sister Blandina Segale, At the End of the Santa Fe Trail, Milwaukee, Wisc. The Bruce Publishing Co., 1948.
News clippings and literature from motherhouse of the Order of Sisters of Charity, Mt. St. Joseph, Ohio.
Sytha Motto, No Banners Waving, Vantage Press, 1966.
Amy Passmore Hurt, "Frontier Sister of Courage," True West, July-Aug. 1962, p. 30-33.
History | Women's History
American Association of University Women-New Mexico. "Sr Blandina Segale." (1976). http://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nm_women_aauw/12