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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Author to give presentation on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton April 29

  • In 1975 author Joan Barthel, who now lives in St. Louis, began research for The New York Times Magazine on Elizabeth Ann Seton, who was then to become the first American-born saint.
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  • In 1975 author Joan Barthel, who now lives in St. Louis, began research for The New York Times Magazine on Elizabeth Ann Seton, who was then to become the first American-born saint.
    She was expecting to find a stern, dour-faced, boring lady but instead found a woman who was passionate, funny, moody and even questioned the existence of God.
    "I was genuinely excited about her, and I told my editor I was going to write her biography," Barthel explained. "That was Sept. 14, 1975. It's taken 39 years. Other books got in the way; but now I've done it."
    Barthel, an award-winning author of five nonfiction books, will be in Rolla for a book signing on her latest work titled, "American Saint, The Life of Elizabeth Seton" at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 29, at the Rolla Public Library. According to Barthel the book tells the story about an adventurous, risk-taking woman who crossed gender and cultural boundaries in her 18th century society and has left a lasting imprint solely because of her own life and work, not because she was married to a prominent man.
    "Her journey forged the way for other women to come together and live as a religious order," she noted. "She risked everything and moved to Baltimore and then Emmitsburg and not only founded the first order of active nuns in the United States, but also laid the groundwork for the Catholic school system."
    Seton was born just two years before the Revolutionary War, and Barthel was impressed by Seton's enduring faith and courage as she lived a turbulent life.
    "She was rich, poor, and an aristocrat. She danced at George Washington's 65th Birthday Ball wearing cream silk slippers, monogrammed. She was an outcast, a Protestant, a Catholic, a wife, a working mother, a young widow and a single parent. When her husband died, she had five children under the age of 8." Barthel added that Seton never had any visions or miraculous happenings in her life; rather her spirituality was rooted in the happiness and heartbreak of everyday life. "This biography is not just for Catholics. Elizabeth Seton was a Protestant (Episcopalian) most of her life," Barthel explained. "It's for anyone interested in American history."  
    For more information, contact the library at 573-364-2604 or visit www.rollapubliclibrary.
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