You are commissioned to Trinidad. You leave Cincinnati Wedns. and alone.
March 22, 2017 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Rosa Maria Segale was born in 1850 in rural Italy. At age four, she and her family moved to Cincinnati, where as a teenager at a school run by the Sisters of Charity, she decided she would join them. As Sister Blandina, her sights were set on the west. She was sent to a small town in Colorado Territory and she spent two decades in the region, tending to the ill, educating the poor, building schools and hospitals, speaking up for the rights of Hispanics and displaced Indians, facing down known bandits including one* Billy the Kid (PDF) and saving at least one man from hanging, as depicted in "The Fastest Nun in the West," a 1966 episode of Death Valley Days.

She documented her life in her journal and a collection of letters, which begins with a letter from Segale’s Mother Superior: “My dear child, you are commissioned to Trinidad. You will leave Cincinnati Wednesday and alone.” Her diary and letters were originally published in 1932 (and since republished a number of times) as At the End of the Santa Fe Trail (Google Books preview, Amazon with preview, Good Reads), which is being used to create a semi-fictional television series.

* One of her more storied tales is her interactions with Billy the Kid, but two Billy the Kids roaming the high desert in 1877: William Bonney, the famous Billy, who did much of his outlawing in southern New Mexico and eastern Arizona, and William LeRoy (an alias of Arthur Pond)—the not-so-famous Billy—who terrorized northern New Mexico. It seems she interacted with the second, but later confused him with the first, which others have also done, even during and soon after their lives, as noted in an article titled "Building His Own Legacy: Billy the Kid and the Media" in the Spring 2007 issue (link to 14 MB PDF) of New Mexico Historical Review.

The intrepid Sister Blandina returned to Ohio in 1893, where she and Sister Justina Segale went “to see if they could do anything for the poor Italian [immigrants]” in the inner city of Cincinnati. With only five dollars in their pocket, these two sisters founded and managed Santa Maria Institute (now Santa Maria Community Services), the first Catholic settlement house in the United States in 1897. In 1900, she returned to Albuquerque for two years to help start St. Joseph Hospital, known today as CHI St. Joseph’s Children, who are currently supporting her Sainthood Cause.
posted by filthy light thief (8 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
For those looking for the new television series, Albuquerque Journal reports that Saint Hood Productions if filming the pilot for “At the End of the Santa Fe Trail,” and that link includes two still shots from what I expect is the pilot, but no word of when or where this might air, or if it's even been picked up by a network.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:05 AM on March 22, 2017

Billys the Kid, surely.

Jests aside, what a great post! Looking forward to digging in.
posted by orrnyereg at 11:05 AM on March 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I guess at that point, sisters were being given ironic names. "Blandina" indeed.
posted by hippybear at 11:35 AM on March 22, 2017

Saint Blandina wasn't too bland herself. Sister Blandina's namesake was a martyred slave, who she was scourged, placed on a red-hot grate, enclosed in a net and thrown before a wild steer who tossed her into the air with his horns, and at last killed with a dagger.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:41 AM on March 22, 2017

At age four, she and her family moved to Cincinnati

Christ, the hardships she endured.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 12:25 PM on March 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sorry. Shared in the spirit of one former midwesterner teasing others.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 12:26 PM on March 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I want to start off right with this excellent collection of links-- so how is "Segale" pronounced? How would Blandina herself have said her name in New Mexico in the 1880s?
posted by seasparrow at 2:17 PM on March 22, 2017

Oh, man. I've not thought about Death Valley Days in years. That was a nifty show.

I always loved that the streets were never dusty or covered in horse shit.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2017

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