Ursuline Convent Riots
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Time Period
8/11/1834
Description
Anti-Catholic fervor in New England continued to build in the 19th century, particularly among working-class Protestants angry over Irish immigration. It was against this backdrop that the Ursuline Order of Roman Catholic nuns opened a convent and boarding school in 1819 near Bunker Hill in Charlestown, Mass.

As years went by, the convent became a focal point for Protestant hostility, sentiments fueled by rumors of nuns being held against their will and accounts of lewd and immoral practices.

On the night of Aug. 11, 1834, a mob rioted against the convent, setting it on fire as nuns and students escaped out the back. Historians regard the evening of riots as the first act of the Know Nothings, a nationalistic, anti-Catholic political party.

Only one person was convicted for the carnage and the nuns eventually left the area. The Catholic Church was never compensated for the loss.
Interactive Timeline(s)
Women and Religion
Catholic Religious Events and People in American History
Browse Related Timeline Entries
Women and Religion in American History
Catholic Religious Events and People in American History
Religious Groups
Catholicism (Western Liturgical Family): Other ARDA Links

Photographs

Destruction of the Ursuline Convent by fire- Hathi Trust- from Trial of John R. Buzzell, the Leader of the Convent Rioters, for Arson and Burglary

Ursuline Convent on Mount Benedict- Hathi Trust- from The Destruction of the Convent at Charlestown, Massachusetts, 1834 by James Phinney Munroe

Ruins of the Ursuline Convent- Internet Archive- from The Destruction of the Convent at Charlestown, Massachusetts, 1834 by James Phinney Munroe
Web Source(s)
https://www.ewtn.com/library/HUMANITY/BURNING.TXT
"The Nunnery As Menace: The Burning of the Charlestown Convent, 1834," by Jeanne Hamilton (Order of St. Ursula)
http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/know-nothing-party-takes-root-in-ashes-of-destroyed-charlestown-convent/
New England Historical Society, "Anti-Irish Know-Nothing Mob Burns a Charlestown Convent in 1834"
Web Page Contributor
Sandi Dolbee
Affliated with: Former Religion and Ethics Editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune

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