Frances Margaret Taylor
Frances Margaret Taylor, whose religious name was Mother Magdalen of the Sacred Heart (b. 20 January 1832; d. 9 June 1900) was an English nurse, editor and writer, nun, and Superior General and founder of the Roman Catholic religious congregation the Poor Servants of the Mother of God
Poor Servants of the Mother of God
The Poor Servants of the Mother of God are a religious congregation founded in 1808 by Mother Mary Magdalen in conjunction with Lady Georgiana Fullerton.Mother M. Magdalen was the daughter of a Church of England clergyman...


Early life

Frances Taylor was born in Stoke Rochford
Stoke Rochford
Stoke Rochford is a small village near Grantham in Lincolnshire.-Geography:For administration purposes, the parish is shared with Easton, which also has a country estate of its own. Stoke Rochford's church is in the parish of Easton, and so is the post office. The southern boundary of the parish...

, the youngest of ten children of Henry Taylor (1777–1842), Anglican Rector of a rural Lincolnshire parish, and his wife Louisa Maria Jones (1793–1869). Her paternal grandfather Richard Taylor (fl.1745-1829) had been rector of parishes in Wiltshire and Hampshire. On her mother's side, her family were merchants and shopkeepers in the City of London. Her father, a graduate of Lincoln College, Oxford
Lincoln College, Oxford
Lincoln College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. It is situated on Turl Street in central Oxford, backing onto Brasenose College and adjacent to Exeter College...

, had been a curate at St Mary Abbots
St Mary Abbots
St Mary Abbots is an historic church located on Kensington High Street , London at a prominent intersection with Kensington Church Street. The present church was built in 1872 by the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott in neo-Gothic Early English style. It was the latest in a succession of churches...

, Kensington
Kensington is a district of west and central London, England within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. An affluent and densely-populated area, its commercial heart is Kensington High Street, and it contains the well-known museum district of South Kensington.To the north, Kensington is...

, where in 1816 he married. His final appointment was to Stoke Rochford
Stoke Rochford
Stoke Rochford is a small village near Grantham in Lincolnshire.-Geography:For administration purposes, the parish is shared with Easton, which also has a country estate of its own. Stoke Rochford's church is in the parish of Easton, and so is the post office. The southern boundary of the parish...

 in 1824, where he was instituted by his patron, the vicar of Kensington, Thomas Rennell
Thomas Rennell
Thomas Kennell FRS was an English churchman, dean of Winchester Cathedral and Master of the Temple.-Life:He was born on 8 February 1754 at Barnack in Northamptonshire, where his father, Thomas Rennell , a prebendary of Winchester, was rector. In 1766 Thomas was sent to Eton, and thence proceeded...

, whose High Church
High church
The term "High Church" refers to beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy and theology, generally with an emphasis on formality, and resistance to "modernization." Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term has traditionally been principally associated with the...

 sympathies he shared.

Following Henry's death, the family returned to London in reduced circumstances, but Louisa rejected a suggestion that Frances be sent to a clergy orphan school. The family shortly moved to Brompton, London, where Frances and her elder sisters encountered the Tractarian spirit and teaching at Holy Trinity Brompton Church
Holy Trinity Brompton Church
Holy Trinity Brompton with St Paul's, Onslow Square is an Anglican church in Brompton, London, United Kingdom. The church consists of three church buildings, HTB Brompton Road, HTB Onslow Square and HTB Queen's Gate, as well as being the home for Worship Central, St Paul's Theological Centre and...

. A few years later, the family moved to St John's Wood
St John's Wood
St John's Wood is a district of north-west London, England, in the City of Westminster, and at the north-west end of Regent's Park. It is approximately 2.5 miles north-west of Charing Cross. Once part of the Great Middlesex Forest, it was later owned by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem...

, and later to the vicinity of Regent's Park
Regent's Park
Regent's Park is one of the Royal Parks of London. It is in the north-western part of central London, partly in the City of Westminster and partly in the London Borough of Camden...

, possibly to be nearer to Christ Church, Albany Street, then one of London’s leading Tractarian churches. The Holy Cross (Park Village) Sisters were nearby, the first religious order to be established in the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 since the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...


Frances developed a desire to serve the poor and vulnerable of London. In 1849 she made a failed application to become a member of St John's House, based in Fitzroy Square, a nursing school which also functioned as an Anglican religious community. In 1848 her sisters Emma and Charlotte had joined an Anglican Sisterhood, the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Trinity (Devonport) founded by Priscilla Lydia Sellon. Frances followed suit around 1852, as a ‘visitor’, and she appears to have stayed for two years. She may have been involved in nurse training at Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

, and she appears to have served as a nurse in Plymouth
Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound...

 during the cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

 epidemic of 1853. By that time, like her sister Charlotte, she had come to realise that her vocation lay elsewhere.

Conversion and early years as a Catholic

In March 1854 the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 broke out. Frances volunteered to nurse in the military hospitals in Turkey. Though under age she was accepted for the second party of volunteer nurses which went out in December 1854, being joined there by her sister Charlotte in April 1855.

She nursed briefly with Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale OM, RRC was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night...

 at Scutari
Scutari may refer to:*Üsküdar , in Anatolia, Turkey*Scutari Barracks in Üsküdar; former hospital where Florence Nightingale worked*Shkodër, in Albania; also known as Scutari in antiquity...

 Hospital, though she was critical of the organisation particularly of supplies at the hospital, and she shortly moved to another military hospital at Koulali. There, she encountered the Sisters of Mercy
Sisters of Mercy
The Religious Order of the Sisters of Mercy is an order of Catholic women founded by Catherine McAuley in Dublin, Ireland, in 1831. , the order has about 10,000 members worldwide, organized into a number of independent congregations....

 and the stoical Irish Catholic
Irish Catholic
Irish Catholic is a term used to describe people who are both Roman Catholic and Irish .Note: the term is not used to describe a variant of Catholicism. More particularly, it is not a separate creed or sect in the sense that "Anglo-Catholic", "Old Catholic", "Eastern Orthodox Catholic" might be...

 soldiery. In the poor conditions of the military hospitals, Frances sought the counsel of Father Sydney Woollett SJ, who was assisting the Catholic chaplain Father William Ronan SJ. She was received into the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 by Father Woollett on April 14, 1855.

Her wartime experiences appeared as her first book. It was one of the earliest published eye-witness accounts of the military hospitals. The book in its final edition (1857) included an impassioned appeal for reform of the public nursing system, and in general of the treatment of the poor by contemporary society.
The delicate watercolour portrait of Frances Taylor as a nurse, by an unknown artist (left), has been much reproduced and copied. On her return to England, Frances put herself under the direction of Henry Edward Manning, Rector of the Church of St. Mary and the Angels, Bayswater. Dr. Manning introduced Frances to Catholic charitable organisations, allowing her to work with the London poor as she desired.

Lady Georgiana Fullerton (1812–1885) was to have a great influence on Frances’ life, encouraging and assisting with her literary and charitable work. They first met c.1859 following the publication of Frances’ first and most popular historical novel Tyborne, a story of the Catholic recusant martyrs of the sixteenth century. Between the years 1859 and 1866, Frances made determined efforts to find a religious vocation, including time spent with the Daughters of Charity
Daughters of Charity
The Company of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, sometimes simply referred to as Daughters of Charity, is a Society of Apostolic Life for women within the Catholic Church. Its members take simple, private, annual vows...

 in Paris, and the Filles de Marie (Daughters of the Holy Heart of Mary
Daughters of the Holy Heart of Mary
The Daughters of the Holy Heart of Mary is a Roman Catholic religious order. It was the first indigenous religious order in Africa.-History:The order was founded on May 24, 1858 by Bishop Aloyse Kobès, who would go on to become the first Vicar Apostolic of Senegambia.-External links:*...

) in England.

At this time, her spiritual director was the Jesuit Peter Gallwey
Peter Gallwey
Peter Gallwey was an English Jesuit priest and writer.-Life:He was educated at Stonyhurst College, and joined the Society of Jesus at Hodder, 7 September 1836. He was ordained priest in 1852, and professed of four vows in 1854...

. Around 1865-7, with the support of Dr. Manning and Father James Clare S.J., Rector of the Jesuit Church, Farm Street, Frances visited Ireland to study Catholic charitable institutions, partly in order to better assist Irish emigrants in England. This visit resulted in one of her most important literary works, Irish Homes and Irish Hearts (1867), a state-of-the-nation work on contemporary Ireland.

Founding of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God

In 1867 Lady Georgiana Fullerton translated the rule of the ‘Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception’, a rural Polish congregation. She obtained permission from the founder, Edmund Bojanowski, to establish the congregation in England. On 24 October 1868, with the help of Father J. L. Biemans, a Belgian priest working in the Saffron Hill area of London, Frances Taylor took charge of a putative English branch of this congregation. In February 1869, at the invitation of the order of priests, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the community moved to the Catholic mission at Tower Hill
Tower Hill
Tower Hill is an elevated spot northwest of the Tower of London, just outside the limits of the City of London, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Formerly it was part of the Tower Liberty under the direct administrative control of Tower...

, where their ministry included running an industrial school and soup kitchen. It was at that stage, following the death of her mother, that Frances was able to become a permanent member of the group.

From August to September 1869 Frances was engaged on a journey across Europe, in order to see the working of the Polish community and meet its founder. Before returning to England, Frances visited the Mother House of the ‘Servants of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary’ in Antwerp. Mère Jeanne Telghuis, the Founder, advised her to take up laundry work. On 24 September 1869 the future founder and two of her companions were received as postulant
A postulant was originally one who makes a request or demand; hence, a candidate. The use of the term is now generally restricted to those asking for admission into a monastery or a convent, both before actual admission and for the length of time preceding their admission into the novitiate...


On 23 January 1870 Frances Taylor took the religious name of Sister Mary Magdalen of the Sacred Heart. When the Archbishop of Posen would not allow Frances’s proposed adaptations to the rule of the Polish congregation, with the advice of her supporters, she founded a separate congregation. The Congregation of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God thus came into being on 12 February 1872, when Frances made her final vows.

In 1874 Frances Taylor met Fr Augustus Dignam SJ, who was shortly to become her spiritual director and an important adviser. In London, the Sisters' principal works were the visitation and nursing of the poor in their own homes, catechising, and also the rescuing of young women from prostitution. Her friend Cardinal Manning remained a firm supporter, and the congregation's early works with the poor were focused on his Archdiocese of Westminster.

Final years

The congregation grew rapidly, and by 1900, the year of Frances Taylor’s death, the Poor Servants of the Mother of God administered over twenty convents and institutions, including the Providence Free Hospital, St. Helens, Lancashire. The congregation was based mainly in England and Ireland, but there were also convents in Paris and Rome. The work was focused on refuges and hostels, schools and orphanages, and health care. As a result of her traumatic experiences nursing in the Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

, Frances Taylor suffered greatly from insomnia
Insomnia is most often defined by an individual's report of sleeping difficulties. While the term is sometimes used in sleep literature to describe a disorder demonstrated by polysomnographic evidence of disturbed sleep, insomnia is often defined as a positive response to either of two questions:...

. She also suffered from oedema for many years, and in 1894 diabetes was diagnosed. She died in the convent, Soho Square
Soho Square
Soho Square is a square in Soho, London, England, with a park and garden area at its centre that dates back to 1681. It was originally called King Square after Charles II, whose statue stands in the square. At the centre of the garden, there is a distinctive half-timbered gardener's hut...

, London on 9 June 1900, after a long and painful illness. In the sermon preached at her funeral, Father Francis Scoles SJ, stated that ‘with pains and prayer she has left a perfect work.’ Frances Taylor's death was noted widely in Britain and abroad, and a large quantity of written condolences came from clergy and religious, including from as far away as Australia and the USA.

In September 1959, Frances Taylor’s remains were transferred from Mortlake Cemetery, Surrey, to the chapel of the Generalate and Novitiate of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God at Maryfield Convent, Roehampton
Roehampton is a district in south-west London, forming the western end of the London Borough of Wandsworth. It lies between the town of Barnes to the north, Putney to the east and Wimbledon Common to the south. The Richmond Park golf courses are west of the neighbourhood, and just south of these is...

, London, and placed in a vault in front of the Sacred Heart altar.

Literary works

Frances Taylor wrote for the service of the Catholic Church, and also for the financial support of her family, and later of the religious congregation which she founded. Her book Religious Orders was printed by Emily Faithfull
Emily Faithfull
Emily Faithfull was an English women's rights activist.-Biography:She was the youngest daughter of the Rev. Ferdinand Faithfull,and was born at Headley Rectory, Surrey. She took agreat interest in the conditions of working-women...

’s Victoria Press
Victoria Press
The Victoria Press was started by Emily Faithfull in London, in 1860.Faithfull was a member of The Society for Promoting the Employment of Women. She was convinced that work as a compositor could be a well-suited trade for women seeking occupation . Faithfull learned type-setting...

, which had been established specifically in order to provide employment for women.

Some of her non-fictional works are difficult to categorise, going broadly under the headings of history, travelogue, social commentary, biography and devotional matter. In addition to these and her various fictional works, mainly collections of stories, she wrote numerous articles for Catholic magazines, and was active as a translator from the French.

From January 1863 to June 1871 she was proprietor and editor of the popular Catholic magazine known as The Lamp. In July 1864, in conjunction with the Jesuits, she became founder-editor of the major Catholic literary review The Month
The Month
The Month was a monthly review, published from 1864 to 2001, which for almost all of its history was owned by the English Province of the Society of Jesus and edited by its members.-History:...

, a position which she held for a year. It was in this journal under her editorship that John Henry Newman’s poem The Dream of Gerontius
The Dream of Gerontius (poem)
The Dream of Gerontius is a poem written by John Henry Newman consisting of the prayer of a dying man, and angelic and demonic responses....

 was first published.

In 1884 she helped Fr Dignam to publish his popular Messenger of the Sacred Heart
Messenger of the Sacred Heart
The Messenger of the Sacred Heart is an Irish Roman Catholic periodical. It was founded by an Irish priest, Fr. Paul Cullen SJ in 1888. It is printed in Dublin. It is generally known simply as The Messenger. For much of its history it was one of the most read Irish devotional...

, the organ of the Apostleship of Prayer
Apostleship of Prayer
The Apostleship of Prayer is a group of Catholic adherents who, through the Daily Offering, unite themselves with the Eucharistic Sacrifice in which the work of our redemption is continuously accomplished. By this vital bond with Christ, they cooperate in the salvation of the world itself...

. Her works also brought her into contact with clerical literary figures, such as Brother Henry Foley
Henry Foley
Brother Henry Foley, S.J., was an English Jesuit Roman Catholic church historian.-Biography:He was born at Astley in Worcestershire, England on 9 August 1811. His father was the Protestant curate in charge at Astley...

 SJ, the historian of the Society of Jesus, and Father Matthew Russell SJ, the founder-editor of the Irish Monthly
Irish Monthly
The Irish Monthly was an Irish Catholic magazine founded in Dublin, Ireland in July 1873. Until 1920 it had the sub-title A Magazine of General Literature. It was founded by Rev. Matthew Russell, S.J., , who was the editor for almost forty years from 1873...

. Most of her published works were initially produced pseudonymously, sometimes appearing initially in journals before publication as books, and their identification and dating is often problematic. Many went through a number of editions.

Major published works

  • Eastern Hospitals and English Nurses (1856)
  • Tyborne and who went Thither (1859)
  • May Templeton, a Tale of Faith and Love [by Charlotte Sarah Dean] (editor, 1859)
  • St Winefride; or Holywell and its pilgrims. A sketch (c.1860)
  • Agnes, or the Fervent Novice (translated, n.d. ?1860s)
  • Offerings for Orphans, a series of original pieces in Prose and Verse by Living Authors. (editor, 1861)
  • Holiday Tales and Conversations (1861)
  • Religious Orders
  • Congregations of Women (1862)
  • Irish Homes and Irish Hearts (1867)
  • Practical Meditations for every day of the Year (translated and adapted, 1868)
  • Holy Confidence (translation, c.1869)
  • Dame Dolores and other Stories (1874)
  • The Stoneleighs of Stoneleigh, and other stories (c.1879) [republished as A Pearl in Dark Waters, 1934]
  • Short Meditations according to the Method of St Ignatius (edited and adapted, c.1880)
  • Life of Jeanne de la Noue – A Marvellous History (c.1884)
  • Lost and other Tales (c.1884)
  • A Pilgrim’s Guide to Rome (1887)
  • Master Will and Wont and other Stories (1887)
  • Life of Father John Curtis of the Society of Jesus (1889)
  • A Shrine and a Story (c.1889)
  • Forgotten Heroines (c.1890)
  • Memoir of Father Dignam (1895)
  • Retreats given by Father Augustus Dignam (c.1896-8)
  • Conferences given by Father Augustus Dignam (c.1897)
  • The Inner Life of Lady Georgiana Fullerton (c.1899)
  • Convent Stories (1900)

Charism and Spirit

Sister Mary Campion Troughton, her first biographer, has written of Frances Taylor’s impact on the community she founded. This was achieved through her determination to ensure proper training for the sisters, both spiritual and professional; her care for all of her charges, both in the community and among those whom they served; and in her concern to be a personal example of humility and labour.

She had a particular devotion to the Incarnation
Incarnation literally means embodied in flesh or taking on flesh. It refers to the conception and birth of a sentient creature who is the material manifestation of an entity, god or force whose original nature is immaterial....

, to the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The paintings of the ‘Sacred Heart Pleading’ and the Annunciation
The Annunciation, also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary or Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Virgin Mary, that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her...

 which were designed (though not executed) by her are effectively visual expressions of her theological beliefs.

For Frances Taylor, the Sacred Heart
Sacred Heart
The Sacred Heart is one of the most famous religious devotions to Jesus' physical heart as the representation of His divine love for Humanity....

 was both a symbol of the Incarnation
Incarnation literally means embodied in flesh or taking on flesh. It refers to the conception and birth of a sentient creature who is the material manifestation of an entity, god or force whose original nature is immaterial....

 and the most perfect expression of God’s love for humankind. Hence her close collaboration with Father Dignam in his work for the Apostleship of Prayer
Apostleship of Prayer
The Apostleship of Prayer is a group of Catholic adherents who, through the Daily Offering, unite themselves with the Eucharistic Sacrifice in which the work of our redemption is continuously accomplished. By this vital bond with Christ, they cooperate in the salvation of the world itself...

, which had the aim of spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart
Sacred Heart
The Sacred Heart is one of the most famous religious devotions to Jesus' physical heart as the representation of His divine love for Humanity....

, particularly amongst the urban poor, and she also sought to encourage the work of the Apostleship in Ireland. She also had been strongly influenced by French models of the spiritual and religious life, particularly the example of St Vincent de Paul, and this French influence is reflected in her attachment to the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus
Holy Face of Jesus
The Holy Face of Jesus is a title for specific images which some Catholics believe to have been miraculously formed representations of the face of Jesus Christ...

, rather unusual in an English context.

Cause for Canonization

The first prayer for Mother Magdalen’s beatification, the first stage towards canonization, was published in 1935. A cause for the beatification of Mother Magdalen Taylor was opened by Cardinal Basil Hume in 1982.

External links

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