Related: Catholic issues, Civil & Human Rights, Sisters of Notre Dame, Social Issues, Social Justice Issues, Trinity

Persistent Women


woman warnedSenator Mitch McConnell warned Senator Elizabeth Warren.  The Majority Leader warned the Senator from Massachusetts that if she persisted in reading a 1986 letter written by the late Mrs. Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., then Senator McConnell would call upon the entire Senate to silence Senator Warren.  Senator Warren kept reading the letter.  #ShePersisted and Senator McConnell then used the Senate rules to get a party-line vote to silence Senator Warren.

What was so evil in Mrs. King’s letter that the gentle ears of U.S. Senators could not possibly hear the message from 1986?  Mrs. King registered her opposition to the nomination of then-US Attorney in Alabama Jefferson B. Sessions to a federal judgeship.  Mr. Sessions, wrote Mrs. King, “…has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens…”  and the letter goes on to provide testimony on Mr. Sessions’ abuses of power to thwart civil rights and voting rights.  Why did Senator McConnell object to the reading of this 30-yera-old letter on the Senate floor?  Because Sessions was a U.S. Senator and old Senate rules prohibit Senators from accusing each other of bad conduct.  Why was Senator Warren reading this letter out in public?  Because Senator Sessions was President Trump’s nominee (now confirmed) to be the Attorney General of the United States.  So, in fact, Senator Warren was not merely criticizing a fellow senator but was making a principled and urgent statement in opposition to the confirmation of the nation’s top officer responsible for the stewardship of civil rights and liberties.

McConnell gave as his paternalistic excuse for silencing Senator Warren the immediately famous phrase, “She was warned.  She was given an explanation.  Nevertheless, she persisted.”  Immediately, Twitter reacted with the hashtag #ShePersisted and women around the world began to add their stories of being silenced.

Regardless of political persuasion, on both sides of the aisle and in all walks of life Trinity Women can surely recite thousands of their own stories.  Julia McGroarty

(Sr. Julia McGroarty, SND, Trinity Founder)

One of the greatest examples of women’s persistence is Sr. Julia McGroarty, SND, founder of Trinity.  We will observe her 190th birthday on February 13.  Sr. Julia was 70 years old in 1897 when she and Sr. Mary Euphrasia Taylor began the work of establishing Trinity College.  They had the support of Cardinal James Gibbons and Dr. Phillip Garrigan, head of then-new Catholic University.  In fact, those men had asked the Sisters of Notre Dame to establish Trinity to relieve Catholic University of the “embarrassment of refusing women admission.”

Julia and Euphrasia worked fast, from March through August 1897 they secured articles of incorporation, raised money, surveyed sites and negotiated to buy land from what was then part of Glenwood Cemetery.  But suddenly, opposition arose from some conservative male clerics who claimed that the whole idea of higher education for women was a heresy.  The opposition to the founding of Trinity went all the way to the Vatican, and the courageous duo — Sr. Julia McGroarty and Sr. Mary Euphrasia Taylor — would not be silenced.  They wrote letters and visited Church officials in person, and eventually they won the approval of the Pope and hierarchy.  Trinity was founded on August 20, 1897, and the rest is history!

Imagine how many thousands of lives have been influenced for so much good because those brave women persisted, because they would not allow the men to silence them.  Julia and Euphrasia took their cue from the founder of the Sisters of Notre Dame St. Julie Billiart who was similarly courageous in refusing to remain silent.  When the bishop in Amiens, France, ordered her to be less aggressive in building schools for girls orphaned in the French Revolution, she took her group of sisters and moved to Namur, Belgium to continue her work.

We are here today at Trinity because Julie, Julia, Euphrasia and so many others would not be silenced, because they persisted.  Today, we seek to educate our students to be similar women of courage, to persist in spite of opposition, to know that it takes courage to do what is right, to speak out against injustice, to serve others.  We pay tribute to our brave founders through our own persistence and willingness to speak truth to power.  Let us never relent.

We are Trinity Women — We Persist!

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7 Responses to Persistent Women

  1. Scott Gilbert says:

    The general tone of your blog posts appears to be: Don’t follow the rules. That seems strange. The Ten Commandments are rules. What would this earth be like if we all didn’t follow the rules? Or is it just OK not to follow the rules that we don’t like? Hmm, I think I will read the Bible and see what it says about following the rules. Not following the rules is what dictators do. Hmm…

  2. Mary C. Poole says:

    I have never been so proud to be a Trinity graduate. I know the education I had at Trinity (’69) encouraged me in a direction of social justice and ervice to other.My education at Trinity also encourage confidence in my voice to speak truth to power. Very proud of President McGuire and Trinity.

  3. Linda S. Morgan says:

    I do not understand the vicious and quite diabolical way you are attacking Mrs. Conway. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. You may post my name!

  4. Paula Soper says:

    Thank you for speaking out on this shameful episode in the Senate. It clearly demonstrates the challenges women still face in the workplace to be valued and heard, and how far we still need to come to address discrimination based on sex and race. Thank you, also, for the reminder of the strength and persistence of our founders. Because of them, we persist.

  5. Peggy O'Brien says:

    Concerned reader, you are misinformed. Senator McConnell allowed two male senators to read Ms. King’s letter later in the same session. PS. Secretary DeVos didn’t need to persist–she just had to wait until Congress voted because she had the votes in a Republican Congress. Those staunch and wonderful SNDs persisted against all kinds of real and powerful odds. They had a set of significant and real challenges. I sign these thoughts of mine–which others may not agree with–with my real name because Trinity taught me that I should take responsibility for my own thoughts and words, and that doing otherwise is cowardice.

  6. mcguirep says:

    Concerned reader, Mr. Sessions did have time to answer Mrs. King’s letter in 1986 when his nomination for a federal judgeship failed because of his long record of suppression of voting rights and civil rights. Senator Warren was properly reminding the United States Senate of the historical record.

    Also, several male senators then proceeded to read out the same letter and there were no objections from Senator McConnell. The silencing action certainly appeared to be very personally directed against Senator Warren.

  7. Concerned Reader says:

    First I would like to add the name of Betsy Devos who was also persistent and was not silenced by political pressure.

    The issue with the corretta SAcott King letter is that Mr. Sessions our Attorney General could not defend himself against the accusations as Mrs. King was no longer on this earth to make these accusations in person. Simple issue of due process law, let the accused face his accuser!
    Mr. Sessions was not allowed to challenge the accusations raised by Mrs King, ergo should not be allowed to be used to attack a sitting US Senator, Ms. Warren please have a seat!

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: