A newspaper headline read, “Miss Drexel Enters a Catholic Convent—Gives Up Seven Million” dollars.
St. Katharine Drexel was a true pioneer woman in many ways. She blazed a trail west, ministering to the Native Americans and African Americans so severely treated by much of the population. By the end of her life she’d established well over 100 missions, 50 schools for African American children and 12 schools for Native Americans.
Prior to that, her wealthy father, Philadelphia banker and philanthropist Francis Drexel, died in 1885. He had amassed roughly $15 million in his estate and distributed it to his children after his death.
Katharine Drexel could have accepted a marriage proposal and lived comfortably for the rest of her life, living off the millions of dollars she received from her father. Instead she gave it all up, became a poor religious and used the inheritance to establish schools and missions in the “Wild West.” It was a shock to many at the time, and even Philadelphia newspapers reported it, using the headline, “Miss Drexel Enters a Catholic Convent—Gives Up Seven Million.”
She could have been a spoiled little rich girl, but instead spent her life in service to the poor.