St. Katharine Drexel

Katharine Drexel was born in Philadelphia on November 26, 1858, the second child of Hannah and Francis Anthony Drexel. Hannah died five weeks after her baby's birth. For two years Katharine and her sister, Elizabeth, were cared for by their aunt and uncle, Ellen and Anthony Drexel. When Francis married Emma Bouvier in 1860 he brought his two daughters home. A third daughter, Louise, was born in 1863. The children grew up in a loving family atmosphere permeated by deep faith.

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St. Katharine Drexel’s Father

Francis Anthony Drexel

Katharine Drexel's father was a nationally and internationally well known banker. He learned the banking business in Drexel & Co. founded by his father in Philadelphia. He had three daughters, Elizabeth, Katharine and Louise. At his death in 1885, besides providing for his daughters, he left $14,000,000 to charity.

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St. Katharine Drexel’s Birth Mother

Hannah Langstroth Drexel

Married in 1854 to Francis Anthony, Hannah gave birth to a daughter Elizabeth and three years later to Katharine in 1858. Never fully recovered from childbirth, Hannah died five weeks later.

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St. Katharine Drexel’s Mother

Emma Bouvier Drexel

In 1860 Francis married Emma in Old St. Joseph Church. In 1863 Louise was born. Family prayer was integrated into their daily life. Emma opened the doors of the Drexel home three afternoons a week to the poor. When they were old enough, the girls helped her distribute clothing, food, medicine, rent money, etc. They learned that wealth was a gift to be shared with those in need.

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St. Katharine Drexel’s Sister

Elizabeth Drexel Smith

Interested in assisting orphans. Elizabeth began St. Francis de Sales Industrial School for orphaned boys. In January 1890, she married Walter George Smith. During an extended honeymoon in Europe, she became pregnant and seriously ill. Somewhat better, in September she and Walter returned home to awaited the birth of their first child. Again becoming gravely ill, Elizabeth and the baby died on Sept. 26, 1890.

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St. Katharine Drexel’s Sister

Louise Drexel Morrell

Louise's outreach focused on African Americans, however, when she married Edward Morrell in 1889, they both promoted the rights of Native American and Black people. They built St. Emma, an industrial school, later a military academy, on property in Virginia as a boarding school for black boys. On property across Deep Creek, St. Katharine build St. Francis de Sales, a boarding school for black girls.

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Drexel Daughters

Family Portrait

Katharine, Louise and Elizabeth. Emma always dressed Louise in white or blue. Katharine and Elizabeth always lovingly regarded Emma as their mother. The term "step-mother" was never used by them. Emma cherished each of "her" girls.