Devoted Catholic & Determined Writer Louise Imogen Guiney in Boston

Early influences

Patrick Robert Guiney

Patrick Robert Guiney (1835-1877), a Union officer during the Civil War, had a lasting impact on his daughter. Prior to his military career, he attended the College of the Holy Cross, a Jesuit university in Worcester, Massachusetts, and practiced law. After the war, he was elected assistant district attorney for Suffolk County. Wanting Louise to have a Catholic education, he sent her to Elmhurst Academy of the Sacred Heart in Providence, Rhode Island. He died when she was 16, leaving her to become the family breadwinner

Boston Catholic churches

Catholicism formed the core of the Guiney’s family life. In 1859, Patrick Guiney married Jeannette Margaret Doyle at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston’s first Catholic cathedral, designed by famed architect Charles Bulfinch at the turn of the century. The following year, it was demolished to permit construction of a larger edifice, consecrated in 1875. During the intervening years, the Guiney family became regular communicants at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the Jesuit church affiliated with Boston College in the city’s Irish South End. Funeral Masses for both Patrick and Jeannette Guiney were held in the church. Louise regularly attended Mass there and at other Jesuit churches, as well the new cathedral. Her devotion to the Catholic faith came to figure largely in her writings.

Catholic education

In 1872, the Diocese of Providence purchased a 30-acre estate surrounded by elm trees from Dr. William Grosvenor, and converted it into a Catholic school for women, Elmhurst Academy of the Sacred Heart. Sent as a boarding student by her father, Guiney wrote to him, “I often wonder if Elmhurst wasn’t the Garden of Eden once, it is so lovely.”

Boston Public Library and the Boston Athenaeum