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Rose Hawthorne 1851 - 1926
Rose Hawthorne was the youngest child of American literary giant Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia. Born in Lenox, Massachusetts in 1851, she had the opportunity to be well-educated, to become acquainted with Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the Alcotts, and to travel abroad. Although her father passed away when she was only thirteen, his influence on her loomed large. She wrote of her father: "His hand was ready to grasp any hand, because it was a human creature's, whose destiny was a part of every destiny - even Christ's." 1 After Nathaniel's passing, Sophia moved the family to Europe where Rose met and fell in love with an aspiring New York writer, George Lathrop. Soon after her mother's death in 1871, and despite her family's objections, she and George married in St. Luke's Anglican Church, London, England.
The marriage was troubled from the beginning. Rose was a woman before her time who sought to establish her own personal and professional identity, while George struggled with his own. The birth of Francis Hawthorne Lathrop in 1876 brought some joy to their lives. The family moved back to Rose's family home at the Wayside in Concord and for a time all seemed right with the world. All too soon, however, tragedy would hit them when little Francis succumbed to diphtheria at the age of four. Although they stayed together for several more years, the death of their son proved to be the final blow to their marriage. The Lathrops would separate in 1895, but not before they had been exposed to the Catholic faith and became converts in 1891.
In 1898, Rose was 47 years old. That year would mark a profound turning point in her life. In January of that year, she experienced a "vision of Christ being taken down from the cross and being cared for by those who had loved him." 2 She felt called to care for the dying as well. She enrolled in a three-month nursing course at the New York Cancer Hospital, moved to the Lower East Side (known for the destitute who resided there) and began offering free care to poor cancer patients. At that time cancer was thought to be a communicable disease and its sufferers were treated much like those with leprosy. She was soon joined by Alice Huber who worked with Rose in her ministry.
After the death of George Lathrop, whom Rose deeply grieved despite their difficult times together, a local priest suggested she and Alice join the Dominican Tertiaries to help them with spiritual support in their efforts. Rose became Sister Alphonsa and Alice became Sister Rose. With the aid of some kindly benefactors, the women were able to purchase a larger facility to care for their increasing number of patients. The first "St. Rose's Home," named after St. Rose de Lima, was opened in May 1899. In 1900, the women were given permission to wear the full Dominican habit and in 1901 they began a new religious community, "The Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer." In subsequent years, relying on donations, the community would open several additional homes and build a thriving religious community to support them. Rose Hawthorne, now known as Mother Alphonsa, died in her sleep on July 9, 1926.
1 "The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne 1900 - 2000" France: Editions du Signe, 2000, 9.
2 "A Convert's 'Second' Conversion." The Rose Hawthorne Guild, Summer 2003.
For additional information, please contact: The Rose Hawthorne Guild, 600 Linda Avenue, Hawthorne, NY 10532. or visit http://www.hawthorne-dominicans.org