Essays and Such

Irish Cultural Society

of San Antonio Texas


Promoting Awareness of Irish Culture

Nano Nagle
by Unknown
Pioneer educator during Penal Times in Ireland

Nano Nagle, 1728-1784:

Pioneer educator during Penal Times in Ireland,

founder of the Presentation Religious Order (PBVM)

Nano Nagle was born in Ballygriffin near Mallow, County 
Cork.  She was the daughter of Garret Nagle, a wealthy, 
Catholic landowner.  Educated initially by private 
tutors, she and her sister were sent to be 'finished' at 
a French convent, as was the custom of wealthy Irish 
Catholic girls.
The well-dowered and attractive young Nano stayed in Paris 
for several years.  Returning home from an all-­night ball, 
she saw a group of poor Parisians waiting patiently 
outside a church to attend Mass.  Their faith was a 
revelation to Nano.  She immediately swore to reject her 
wealthy society background and devote her life to the poor.
Returning to Ireland after her father's death in 1746, Nano 
determined she would make a Catholic education available to 
the poor.  This was a time of virulent anti-­Catholicism in 
Ireland and Nano came up against the brutal Penal laws.
Born out of the ever-present Protestant fear of Catholic 
rebellion, these laws were designed to disempower the 
Catholic majority.  Catholics were not allowed to vote, 
hold public office, buy land or maintain long-term leases, 
marry Protestants, practice law, own weapons, join the 
services or receive a Catholic education.  The only legal 
education was that provided by the Church of Ireland 
(Protestant) and even that was not generally available to 
the poor.
Disheartened, Nano returned to France and entered the 
Ursuline Order.  But she was haunted by voices calling her 
back to Ireland.  On the advice of a priest counselor, Nano 
returned to Ireland in 1749.  Soon after settling in her 
brother's home in Cork, she secretly started a small school 
in a mud shack on Cobh Lane, Cork.  What she was doing was 
totally illegal.
Within a year the initial 30 students had grown to 200.  By 
1769, five schools had been established for boys and girls.  
Nano maintained the schools with her own money and by 
collecting from door to door.  A family inheritance was 
directed into seven schools an activity that could have 
earned her 6 months in prison & loss of property.  
Irish-born women trained by the Ursuline nuns in France 
returned to devote themselves to educating the poor in 
Ireland.  Nano and three other women took simple vows and 
started the Institute of Charitable Instruction, which later 
became the order of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin 
Mary (PBVM) in 1777.  The order's first act was to throw 
a banquet and personally serve fifty paupers.
Nano was only in her forties when she confirmed her vows 
in the new order.  In spite of poor health, she and her 
companions visited the elderly poor and confirm in their 
own homes as well as organizing schools for the poor, Nano 
became known as The Lady with the Lantern because she often 
worked long into the night and it was said she knew every 
poor garret in Cork.  One of her last acts was to establish 
a home for the elderly poor.
Nano Nagle died of an inflamation of the lungs at the age of 
fifty-six.  She is buried in the Ursuline convent graveyard 
at Douglas Street Cork.  By 1900, her seven schools had 
grown to fifty in Ireland alone.  Today others in the 
Presentation Order have carried her mission to North 
America, Britian, Australia, Africa and India.  Her 
foundation has become one of the most respected in the 
teaching profession. ("Wild lrish Women, " 2002, chapter 
titled "Ahead of their Time, " by Marian Broderick)
This is the order, which will celebrate, its 50th 
Anniversary in San Antonio, Texas, on Sun., 
Nov. 17, 2002, 3 pm, at St. Gregory the Great Church.  
A reception will follow.

"Huge surprise as Presentation Order founder
 pips The Big FeUa (Michael Collins),
De Valera and Yeats in 'Tribune' poll."
"The Catholic Church may be going through a time of 
turmoil in Ireland but its influence is still strong.

Voting in The Sunday Tribune's competition for
'The Greatest Irish Person' of all time is Nano Naile.
She received almost twice as many votes as Michael Collins 
to head the poll, the top 100 also includes Ignatius Rice ... 
St. Brigid ..St. Patrick, St. Kevin, Matt Talbot, Frank Duff
(founder of the Legion of Mary), St. Brendan (believed	
to have stepped on American soil ahead of Christopher 
Columbus) ... and others.
Another huge surprise: The top of the list is dominated 
by dead people (same things in the recent BBC competion 
for the greatest Briton.) While
There were 13 women winners.