Butler, Marie Joseph (Johanna) (1860–1940), mother general of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, founder of Marymount schools and colleges, was born 22 July 1860 as Johanna Butler in Ballynunry, Co. Kilkenny, into the large family of John Butler, gentleman farmer, and Ellen Butler (née Forrestal). Educated at the Sisters of Mercy in New Ross, Co. Wexford, she entered (1876) the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Mary in Béziers, France. Sent to Oporto, Portugal (1879), she took the name ‘Marie Joseph’ and was professed in 1880. She taught in Oporto and in Braga (1880–1903), where she became superior of the school (1893). Appointed head of the congregation's school at Long Island, New York (1903), she was charged with the task of extending the order's influence. Given a site in Tarrytown, New York (1907), by her cousin James Butler, she founded the first Marymount school (1907) and the first Marymount college, Tarrytown (1918), of which she was president and which was granted a charter from the University of the State of New York to award bachelor degrees (1924). Elected mother general of her order (1926–40), she was the first American superior to be elected general of an international congregation of the catholic church. She introduced a distinctive educational system, based on high academic and religious standards, and aimed to prepare young women for their changing role in society. She was the inspiration behind the founding of fourteen American schools (including three Marymount schools, three colleges, and a novitiate in New York) and twenty-three foundations outside America, including a novitiate (Ferrybank) in Waterford, Ireland, and Marymount schools in Rome, Paris, and Quebec. She died 23 April 1940 in Tarrytown, where she is buried. Her spiritual writings were published as As an eagle: the spiritual writings of Mother Butler R.S.H.M. by J. K. Leahy (1954). Her candidature for canonisation began in 1948.
Katherine Burton, Mother Butler of Marymount (1944) (photo); F. de S. Boran, ‘Butler, Marie Joseph, Mother’, New Catholic encyclopedia, ii (1967)