Sturdy Roots

Case Study in Courage
Mother Caroline Friess

Lost Identity

In 1991, S. Marjorie Myers, SSND, reported on research regarding early photographs of Mother Caroline. She learned that photographs could be "doctored" even in 1928! Find out the interesting and revealing story behind some false faces portrayed as Mother Caroline and the pioneers to America. S. Marjorie's original article is reprinted below in conjunction with the photos in question. Study this research by comparing photographs as you read the text.

Lost Identity by: S. Marjorie Myers, SSND
Soundings, October 1991, pp. 12-13.

As we begin to celebrate the centenary of the death of our dear Mother M. Caroline Friess, the question of authentic photographs of her has surfaced. Most of us are familiar with the picture of her in the front of Sister M. Dymphna Flynn's book, Mother Caroline and the School Sisters of Notre Dame in North America . (1928) There she is sitting at a desk holding a pen. At the back of the second volume is a picture of five pioneer sisters. However, it seems the only authentic photographs we have are:

  • Jubilee card picture
  • Caroline with four other pioneers - Sisters M. Seraphine von Pronath, M. Emmanuela Schmid, M. Theophila Bauer, and M. Seraphica Mitchell.
  • Caroline alone (same pose as in the group picture)
  • Walking in the garden with a novice holding an umbrella over her head and the same with another sister beside her.
  • In her coffin.
According to S. Rosella Kneice (ML) who worked in the printery in Milwaukee in the 1920's at the time of the printing of the above mentioned book, Rev. Mother M. Stanislaus Kostka, Commissary General, didn't like the way the habits looked on the five pioneers. She had five sisters, Crispin Linse, Agnes Hoffman, F. DeChantal Oswald, Aluine Hoerres, and Mary Xavier Baggeler, dress in their best (1920's starched veils and folded wimples) to pose for a picture as closely matched in position as possible. Then the faces of the pioneers were cut from the real picture and superimposed on the 1920's figures. These sisters had to take an oath of secrecy. S. M. Rosella cannot identify the face put on the person in the Mother Caroline position (center front). Was that perhaps taken from Caroline's passport, or is that another person?

The original picture of the five pioneer sisters is shown at right, the retake is below it.

Notice the differences between the way the veils were pressed and the difference in the hand positions of those sitting in the front row. Crosses are also missing in the back row on the retake. The pioneers were, from left to right, as follows: Front row: Mother Seraphine, Mother Caroline, Sister Emmanuel, Mistress of Novices. Back row: Mother Theophila, Sister Seraphica. (From Mother Caroline and the School Sisters of Notre Dame by Sister Dymphna Flynn, 1928).

The picture of Mother Caroline holding a pen poised to write is also not authentic. The person pictured is S. Mary Xavier Baggeler who, we learn from oral tradition, looked somewhat like Mother Caroline did as a young sister; however, it is not certain whose face is shown.
(Below-left ) Mother Caroline Friess in her official portrait. The photo below on the right was the body of S. Mary Xavier Baggeler posed with the pen and sitting in the chair. The face on that photo is unknown.

In this, Mother Caroline's centenary year, let us begin using only authentic ones from our displays and articles. As in a television game show of the past we can say, "Will the real Mother Caroline please come forward? (Information from an oral interview with S. M. Rosella Kneice, October 6, 1989).
Case Study in Courage
Family of Origins
Adapting the Vision
Steamboat Explosion
Letter from Margaret to Caroline
Conversation with Gerry
Lost Identity

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