Carroll, Margaret Anna (Sister Mary Teresa Austin) (1835–1909), Sister of Mercy, educator, historian, and writer, was born 23 February 1835 in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, second eldest daughter and fourth eldest among nine children (four sons and five daughters) of William Carroll, businessman, and Mary Carroll (née Strahan) of Waterford city, who later settled in Clonmel. Educated at Canning's School and the Clonmel national model school, where she received her teacher certification, she entered St Marie's of the Isle Convent, Cork city, 7 December 1853; received the habit of the Sisters of Mercy and the religious name Sister Mary Teresa Austin, 16 May 1854; and was professed 11 July 1856. In October 1856 she joined the Sisters of Mercy in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. Between 1856 and 1869 she was assigned to Hartford, Rochester, Buffalo, Manchester, Omaha, and St Louis, where she was engaged in prison visitation and teaching. On 19 March 1869 she went to the new foundation in New Orleans, Louisiana, arriving 28 March. She taught in the French School, engaged in home and prison visitation, and nursed victims of yellow fever.
Mother M. Austin served as assistant superior (1869–72) and novice mistress (1872–3), and was elected superior in May 1874. During her superiorship, parish circulating libraries were established and also libraries in prisons, schools, orphanages, the House of Mercy, evening schools, and Sunday schools. She made use of the press on behalf of women prisoners to secure separate accommodation and other reforms of the system, including the appointment of a matron.
Mother M. Austin and her sisters met immigrant women coming off the ships, providing them with shelter and protection in the House of Mercy, where they received domestic training and were placed in respectable situations. She established an employment bureau, a crèche, an orphanage, and evening religious and secular instruction classes in the Newsboys' Home and in the Boys' House of Refuge. Mother M. Austin founded seven convents during her twenty-four years in New Orleans, her sisters teaching in forty-five schools, including a night school, twelve secondary schools, and eight for black students. By 1891 a fourth of all students taught in the New Orleans group of convent schools were black, as were one-third of those in Mobile and Selma, Alabama. Mother M. Austin did not establish select schools; she preferred to educate children of all classes in the same school. She supported college education for women. When the Louisiana Sisters of Mercy were divided by Archbishop Janssens into two separate groups in 1891, New Orleans and Mobile, she became superior of the Mobile–Selma group. During her nine years as superior in Selma and Mobile she founded five convents and opened thirty-three schools, including nine secondary schools.
Mother M. Austin was a freelance writer for the local newspaper. She published thirty-nine articles in periodicals in Ireland and the United States, and twenty original works including four biographies, seven historical works, three historical dramas, two books for children, two for young people, and a travel book. She translated six works from French and Spanish, compiled four books from the books of other authors and a book from her own personal spiritual retreat notes, and edited seven works by other authors. She produced a small retreat book, Spiritual retreat for eight days, for communities who could not get a priest for their retreats. Her publications brought her recognition in the literary exhibits of several national gatherings or fairs in New Orleans, Chicago, and Atlanta. She had more books on display at the 1884–5 Cotton Centenary Exposition than any other author in Louisiana. In the literary exhibit from each of the states, she shared the honours with Louisa Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Julia Howe, George Eliot, Maria Edgeworth (qv), Jane Austen, and the three Brontë sisters. She was awarded the first-place ribbon of the Woman's Department of the World's Exposition of spring 1885 for her publications displayed during this exhibition in New Orelans. In 1893 she was declared one of a dozen outstanding catholic women authors in America at the Catholic Press Convention held in Chicago. The income from her writing funded a major portion of her social works, in particular the black schools. Mother M. Austin Carroll died 29 November 1909 in Mobile and is buried there in the catholic cemetery.