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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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FRANCISCIAN SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY. The order originated in Herford, Germany in 1864 where the needs of homeless and hungry children became the focus of Mother Xavier Termehr. Soon other young women asked to join her. With the encouragement of the local pastor and bishop, the sisters staffed an orphanage and went to homes of the elderly who needed nursing care. They ministered on the battlefields of the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars. (1)

In 1875 a new law ordered religious communities not involved in hospital work to either disband or emigrate. The order of 29 members wanted to remain a religious community, even though this meant exile. (2)

A priest from Iowa who had visited the sisters invited them to Iowa City. They arrived September 8, 1875 and established the first Catholic orphanage in the state. They also nursed the sick in their homes and took English lessons. Bishop John HENNESSY of Dubuque met Mother Xavier and told her of his intent to open a German Catholic Orphan Asylum, and of his wish that they would take over this work. Mother Xavier and the rest of the order moved to Dubuque in December of 1878. (3)

Once the sisters became proficient in speaking English, their services as teachers were requested by an ever-growing number of pastors and bishops. In 1876, sisters of the order were teaching in two schools and by 1915, 44 schools. In addition to teaching, they staffed a home for the aged, a boarding house for working women, the domestic service department of the Dubuque seminary, and a second orphan home in Sioux City, Iowa. (4) In Dubuque, the sisters established an orphanage and home for women in the 600 block of Bluff Street. The order established hospitals including XAVIER HOSPITAL in Dubuque and others in LeMars, Iowa and Emporia, Kansas. (5)

Over the years the mission of the sisters in Dubuque changed. From being teachers, many worked closely in Dubuque with people from the Marshall Islands. Others raised money for building wells in Africa and South America. (6)

Among the sisters in Dubuque was Helen HUEWE.

The 1987 Dubuque City Directory listed 595 Clarke Dr.



1. "History," Sisters of St. Francis. Online: http://www.osfdbq.org/who-we-are/history/

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Jacobson, Ben. "Strong Sisterhood," Telegraph Herald, August 21, 2016, p. 6A

6. Ibid.