Maher, Anne (Mary Columba) (1777–1855), Dominican prioress, was born Anne Maher on 25 July 1777 at Dunore, near Bagenalstown, Co. Carlow, one of ten children of James Maher, farmer, and Mary Maher (née Silk); she was a first cousin of the mother of Cardinal Paul Cullen (qv). After receiving a basic education at the local school, she joined the Dominican sisters in Channel Row, Dublin, and then moved with the community to Clontarf in 1808. She was professed into the order on 27 May 1809, when she was 32 years of age, taking the name ‘Mary Columba’. While she may initially have been professed as a lay sister (Kelly & Keogh, 27), Dominican records do not confirm this. Despite minimal formal education, she served as prioress of the community twice: first from 1814 to 1820, when she oversaw the community's move from Clontarf to its permanent home in Cabra in 1819, and again from 1836 to 1848. Maher was also the motivating force in the community in 1831, when the sisters successfully petitioned Pope Gregory XVI to separate from the authority of the central Dominican order, in order to transfer their jurisdiction to the immediate ecclesiastical authority of the archbishop of Dublin, at that time Daniel Murray (qv).
In 1836, during her second term as prioress, a second community was founded at Mount St. (later moved to Sion Hill in 1840), under the leadership of Mother Magdalen Butler (qv). However, Maher and Butler parted on bad terms, and this second foundation retained a separate identity and jurisdiction to the Cabra convent. Maher is remembered as a forceful presence in the revitalisation of the Dominican community in Ireland. From the verge of extinction in 1808, the community focused on an educational apostolate and established a boarding school (1835), a high-class day school at Ushers Quay (1843), and a Deaf and Dumb Institution at Cabra (1846). After many years of ill health, Maher died on 25 May 1855 and was buried in the newly consecrated cemetery (1854) adjacent to the Cabra convent.