Countdown to History: August 20, 1897!

Countdown to History: August 20, 1897!

Part 2: August 13, 1897. Read Part 1 here.

August 20, 1897: Trinity Officially Founded!

125 Years of Education for Justice! 125 Years at 125 Michigan Avenue!

Reflections on Trinity’s Remarkable History, by Ann Pauley, Media Relations

Trinity is celebrating its 125th Anniversary in 2022 – and we’re celebrating all year! Read about the exciting events planned to celebrate in October 2022!  

August is a particularly important month in Trinity’s remarkable history because on August 20, 1897, Trinity College was officially incorporated by an Act of Congress!

Sr. Julia McGroarty, Foundress of Trinity

But what happened before August 20, 1897, to make this special day a reality? What was the vision of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur for this wonderful place we call Trinity? What challenges did they face? (There were many.) What successes did they have? (There were many of those, too.)

I love history and I especially love the fascinating, remarkable history of the founding of Trinity! Take a moment and be inspired by the perseverance of the  visionary, determined, amazing Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur! This is Part 2: Read Part 1 here.

On August 11, 1897, Sr. Julia McGroarty wrote that she approved the Incorporation documents, and noted: “I am having a pattern of a college seal drawn – I will send it for you to see. Faith in Latin will be the base”

August 13, 1897

The sketches of the college seal were mailed from Sr. Julia McGroarty to the other Sisters working on the founding of Trinity on August 13, 1897, with a letter expressing her satisfaction that the architect, Mr. Edwin Forrest Durang “has been on [the land for the Trinity campus] and is so pleased with the site! If we only had the money!” In her history of Trinity, Sr. Columba Mullaly wrote: “That last cry has been rising steadily from the Trinity College campus through the years since then and bids fair to continue for many more.”

Although confined to her bed because of exhaustion, Sr. Julia McGroarty continued her instructions in her August 13 letter: “The deed [to the property for the campus] seems all right, but before we begin to build we shall have the approval of Congress.” She then directs the Sisters to take care of another task immediately: “Before the meeting of the Bishops, indeed at once, I would like you to have a post or two, painted white, put up at the future entrance, that everyone may see that we are not at the gate of the [Catholic] University. That will set people right.”

In her history of Trinity, Sr. Columba Mullaly wisely noted, “More than white painted posts was needed before the furor of the next weeks could be quieted.”

What was the furor of the next few weeks? How did the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur overcome the storms ahead and successfully incorporate Trinity on August 20, 1897, and continue with their plans to build the campus?

Some of the opposition to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur establishing Trinity was because the land selected for the campus would be so close to Catholic University which, at the time, only enrolled men. There were concerns by some Catholics that a college for women should not be located so close to a college for men. Imagine!

There were other criticisms of the Sisters creating a college for women. The Sisters held press conferences, sent telegrams and press releases, and traveled to Atlantic City in the August heat, in their wool habits, to meet with the Archbishop to present their case!

Stay tuned for Part 3! (And be sure to read Part 1 here.)

Trinity’s Main Hall in 1901 before the construction of the front entrance, the iconic Red Roof, and the rest of Main Hall. This is where the very first students lived on campus and took their classes.


Botany class at Trinity, 1906.

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