Complex personality factors combined to make Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini an outstanding woman of her era. Without doubt she possessed that intangible element known as charisma. Only a charismatic personality could have attracted so many followers and captivated the attention of both the powerful and lowly of this world.
Cabrini was a modern woman. Her interests were extensive. She certainly did not adapt readily to the role expected of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century women religious. She was an entrepreneur and world traveler, keenly aware of the currents of thought in the world of her time. Cabrini foresaw the twentieth century as one of revolution and tailored her philosophy of education, healthcare, and social service to accentuate the intrinsic value and dignity of each human being touched by her Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.
Frances Cabrini became an American citizen. Quite possibly, she may have taken the decision to become a naturalized citizen to secure the extensive property holdings of the Institute of the Missionary Sisters to be able to cross national boundaries with greater facility.
Her struggles presage those we experience in this century. To wit, in 1915, when Mother Cabrini decided to expand her works in Seattle with the purchase of the Perry Hotel, which she planned to transform into a foundling home, a violent controversy broke out. Allied against Cabrini were neighbors, bankers, and jealous spectators, who did not want Italian sisters to purchase the building. Clearly, the primary objection to Cabrini’s purchase of the Perry Hotel was prejudice and discrimination based on her gender, her religion, national origin, and her mission: she had come to minister to Italian immigrants who at the time were the most detested group in society. A memoir of the Missionary Sisters in Seattle records: “Businessmen eager for profit, financiers and bankers agreed that the Perry would make a good speculative investment and couldn’t bear to see such an elegant building transformed into a foundling home – by a sister – and this one an Italian.” Never mind that Mother Cabrini had become a naturalized citizen in Seattle six years prior.
In spite of the antagonism, Mother Cabrini was always one to continue her course. She obtained the bill of sale for the Perry Hotel on April 16, 1915. Then the onslaught of all parties began anew. John L. Corrigan, a Seattle attorney, noted that Cabrini “never faltered or wavered in carrying out her plans and she overcame obstacles that would have disheartened the bravest of human hearts with a supreme confidence that edified and inspired everyone who came in contact with her.”
~ from Mother Cabrini, Italian Immigrant of the Century, by Sr. Mary Louise Sullivan, MSC, PhD