Answer Man: Who are the Daughters of the Queen of Heaven?

News-DemocratApril 29, 2013 

Q. Where I work at St. Louis University, I see "Queen's Daughters Catholic Centre" on one of the old buildings. I have never heard of this group, and I am wondering what this is or was. It's on the building at 3700 Lindell, across from the old Coronado Hotel.

-- Pat Hoffarth, of Belleville

A. In the late 19th century, Miss Mary Hoxsey noticed all the good work that the St. Vincent de Paul Society was doing for the poor in St. Louis.

She probably wanted to join in, but it wouldn't admit women until the 1960s. So on Dec. 5, 1889, to honor the Virgin Mary, she founded the Daughters of the Queen of Heaven, Filiae Reginae Coeli, as a kind of women's auxiliary to supplement the de Paul's Society's fine efforts.

Known as the Queen's Daughters for short, the group soon received the encouragement of her parish priest and, on July 17, 1894, the official sanction and blessing of Pope Leo XIII. By 1913, 35 affiliated associations had popped up across the country, according to an article in that year's Catholic Encyclopedia.

"The Queen's Daughters visit the poor in their homes and afford them spiritual and material aid," according to the article. "They endeavor to influence those who neglect the religious training of their children, teach Christian doctrine ... and provide suitable clothing for the first Communion of children whose parents are unable to make such provision."

The group also started sewing guilds, cooking schools and altar societies. At the group's Saturday "industrial schools," children were taught to sew and be "self-helpful." They also met with members of the "Guardian Angel Band" -- children of the well-to-do who were being taught to be sympathetic to those less well-off.

In addition, the group worked with the juvenile court system to help those in legal trouble. And it teamed up with such groups as the White Sisters of the Nazareth Home in Providence, R.I., which offered a day nursery in addition to other services.

Already by 1898, the group's Saturday schools were serving more than 1,200 students. It helped nearly 1,500 children and 500 adults here by distributing 7,500 garments, including 1,300 pairs of shoes, according to the 1899 Encyclopedia of the History of St. Louis.

Now, a little about the building you referred to: Originally built in 1890 as the Euston family mansion, it is an architectural gem that today is overshadowed by the university's more famous Cupples House.

"It is a beautiful white stone building with that round turret," said Jeanette Grider, who heads St. Louis U.'s media relations. "Even though it's office space now, they haven't disrupted the character of the building. They have a small dining space and there are fireplaces. It's just beautiful."

Eventually, the Queen's Daughters bought the home for office space and to provide a safe environment for working Catholic women, adding on a boarding house to provide living quarters. Some female St. Louis U. students even lived there in the 1950s because it was cheaper than university housing, according to information furnished by John Waide, the school's archivist.

As early as 1960, the school tried to buy the center, but the Queen's Daughters wasn't quite ready to give it up. By the time the group was ready to sell, the school had purchased the old Melbourne Hotel (now Jesuit Hall), so the Church of Scientology purchased it.

Finally, in about 1990, the university acquired the property and razed the boarding-house addition. Today, the top two floors of the original home serve as administrative offices and meeting space for the law school while the bottom floor houses the impressively restored dining room.

I have found no indication that Queen's Daughters still exists. Now the future of the building is in question, too.

"Now that the law school is going to move downtown I have no idea what they're going to do with that," Waide said.

I'm sure if Mary Hoxsey is looking down, she hopes future tenants at least will follow her group's motto -- "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam" ("to the greater glory of God").

Today's trivia

What is thought to be the only sea that does not touch land?

Answer to Sunday's trivia: Born on Valentine's Day 1894, Benjamin Kubelsky, the son of Polish and Lithuanian immigrants, grew up in Waukegan. Shortly after World War I he took the name Jack Benny and became a star of radio and TV. He's now one of Waukegan's favorite sons, so it's only natural that Jack Benny Middle School would take the nickname "the 39ers" after Benny's penchant for always saying he was 39 years old. And, if you you're still wondering, yes, Benny actually was proficient on the violin, starting out as a teen by playing the instrument in vaudeville theaters for $7.50 a week.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 239-2465.

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