Marymount Paris Foundress

Marymount Paris was founded by Mother Marie Joseph Butler in 1923 as a study abroad program for students attending Marymount College in Tarrytown, NY. Mother Butler went on to found Marymount Schools in Europe and the United States, leaving a legacy of international education that is still alive and well today.

Born Johanna Butler, (born July 22, 1860, Ballynunnery, County Kilkenny, Ire.—died April 23, 1940, Tarrytown, N.Y., U.S.), Mother Butler joined the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (RSHM) as a novice in Béziers, France in 1876, taking on the name of Marie Joseph. It was 1879 that Mother Butler began her journey in education when she was sent as a teacher to the order’s convent school in Oporto, Portugal. In 1880 she entered into full membership in the order. A year later, in 1881, she transferred to a school in Braga, Portugal, where would later become superior in 1893.

In 1903 Butler was charged with the direction of the RSHM's school in Sag Harbor, Long Island, New York. At that time, she also given responsibility for expanding the work of the RSHM in the United States. To that end, in 1907 she opened Marymount College in Tarrytown, New York, a college of higher education for Roman Catholic women. Under her guidance, and in a little more than a decade, Marymount college developed into a leader in Catholic higher education for the modern world. The success of Marymount College would lay the way for the establishment of other Marymount schools to spread the work of the original.


Over the course of her lifetime Mother Butler was responsible for the founding of 14 schools in the United States alone, as well as 23 schools, novitiates, and other institutions of the RSHM across the globe. She created in the Marymount schools a philosophy of education that emphasizes the education of the whole person, including the social, physical, and spiritual, as well as the intellectual. She also established curriculums in political science and law that helped her students become active and informed citizens. In addition to educational institutions she founded the Mother Butler Mission Guilds for social service and instituted the retreat movement for laywomen.

By 1926 Mother Butler was elected the Mother General of the RSHM, making her the first American head of a European-based Catholic order. Eight years after her death, in 1948, her cause for canonization was opened.