What is the LAOH?
The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) was organized in New York City in 1836. The Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians (LAOH) was organized in Omaha, Nebraska in 1894 as the “Daughters of Erin.” In 1906 at the National Convention, the Ladies received permission from the National Chaplain and the National President of the AOH to function as a separate organization. The name was changed to “Ladies Auxiliary to the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America.” In 1984 at the National Constitution Convention of the Order, the Ladies voted to change their name to “Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians.”
The primary purpose of the LAOH was to protect young Irish girls coming to the United States, to assist them in securing employment, to give them the opportunity to be with own kind, and to keep them from becoming homesick and discouraged.
The motto of the LAOH is “Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity. It also helps to foster loyalty to country and community, encourages civic responsibility, and perpetuates the history and traditions of the Irish people and their culture. The goals, ideals, and principles of this organization have attracted women of all walks of life.
History of the LAOH
Minnesota organized the first Division. Organization was rapid throughout the country. At the National Convention in Boston in 1900, the women represented nearly every state and several Canadian provinces. A request was made for permission to elect a National Board of Officers for the women. The request was denied. It was agreed, however, that the biennial conventions be held in conjunction with the AOH. The AOH National Vice President presided over the sessions.
In 1902 in Denver, the women elected a three-member Advisory Board which served until 1906. In 1906, in Saratoga Springs, the group became the Ladies Auxiliary to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The Auxiliary was empowered to act as a separate body subject to the authority of the National Chaplain and the President of the AOH. National Officers were elected with Anna Malia of Scranton, Pennsylvania serving as the first National President.
The first official National Convention of the Ladies’ Auxiliary was in Indianapolis in 1908. Delegates from 33 states and the Province of Quebec were in attendance. Membership was reported at approximately 56,000.
Advancement was rapid during the early years. In 1904, before the official organization of the Auxiliary, the women donated $10,000 to endow a scholarship at Trinity College in Washington, DC. The first three scholarship recipients returned to Trinity as teachers and administrators.
Charitable works increased. Divisions established sick and death benefits, the unemployed were assisted, and Irish immigrant girls were given needed support. Masses honoring St. Patrick and St. Brigid flourished throughout the country and deceased members were honored at special Masses. In order to create more interest in Irish history, the Annual Essay Contest was instituted. The name was changed to the Annual History Writing Contest in 2000.
In 1913, in Atlantic City, Vice President Mahoney was empowered to organize the Junior Divisions. Pennsylvania accepted the challenge and organized four Junior Divisions.
It was in Norfolk in 1914 that President Ellen Ryan Jolly, LLD, of Rhode Island, proposed the erection of a monument in Washington, DC to honor the Sister-Nurses of the Civil War. The extensive research and legislative requirements would take 10 years and $50,000 was needed to achieve this goal. The Nuns of the Battlefield Monument is located near St. Matthew’s Cathedral and was the site of a ceremony during our celebration. Mrs. Jolly’s research was reprinted and given as a gift to the participants at the Centennial.
The next project the Auxiliary undertook was to donate St. Brigid’s Altar to the National Shire of the Immaculate Conception. In 1927, National President Mary Timon Horan of Pennsylvania presented a check for $10,000 to the Most Reverend Thomas J. Shahan, DD, Rector of Catholic University of America. They also conducted a drive for gold and jewels to provide a chalice and altar accoutrements. The chalice, donated in 1928, has four panels bearing the emblems of the Four Provinces of Ireland and shamrock ornamentation. A gold paten is engraved with a Celtic cross. On 1929, an illuminated missal with a specially designed jewel-encrusted leather cover was donated. The hand-carved wooden missal stand was carved from the pews of St. Francis Xavier Church in Gettysburg. These pews served as cots during the Civil War for the soldiers nursed by the Nuns of the Battlefield. Gold candlesticks with Celtic designs were presented in the following years.
In 1935, Fr, Edward Galvin of the Columban Missionaries attended the National Convention in Baltimore. He appealed for financial assistance to aid in his work with the suffering people of China. The Ladies’ Auxiliary voted the Columban Missionary Order as its principle charity and it remains so today. Because of your charitable contributions, over one-half million dollars has been donated to the Columban Missions.
Many Americans are unaware that in 1862 the famous Irish Brigade, made up of mostly native and first generation Irishmen in New York City, fought in the bloodiest single day of the Civil War at the Battle of Antietam. The Irish Brigade led the assault on the Confederates holding out in a well-defined position, now called “Bloody Lane.” The battle raged for four hours until the Confederates were pushed from Bloody Lane. Two Irish Brigade regiments suffered 60% casualties. They also suffered severe casualties at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. The AOH and LAOH have contributed towards the erection of “The Forgotten Irish Monument” that stands next to the Observation Tower at Bloody Lane, Antietam National Battlefield.
For the National Bicentennial in 1976, the AOH and LAOH donated a vestments case to the Catholic University to display the vestments of Archbishop John Carroll. The gift was in gratitude for the many blessings given the Irish people who came to America.
During the 1978 convention in Killarney, Ireland the organization voted, along with the AOH, to establish the Hibernian Chair at Notre Dame University. Money raised promotes the study of the Irish contributions to America and the Church, and provides scholarship assistance to the sons and daughters of the members.
Another joint project was in 1985 when an obelisk at the Medal of Honor Grove at Valley Forge was dedicated. The monument bears the names of all of the recipients of the Medal of Honor who were not accredited to any state and were therefore not recorded elsewhere in the park. Sixty-five of the recipients are of Irish birth, but the names of unclaimed soldiers of other countries were also included.
In Albany in 1984 it was voted to drop the term “Auxiliary” from our title and give the organization complete jurisdiction over its own affairs. This became official in October 1985 with the signing of the new Constitution.
In 1992 at the National Convention in New Orleans, the membership of Pennsylvania, long ranked third, surpassed Massachusetts and moved into second place behind New York with membership.
Pennsylvania women have served in the office of National President five times. Anna Malia held office in 1906. Mary Timon Horan held office in 1927. Lenore Shea served from 1948-1952. Margaret Cooney served from 1998-2000. Dorothy Weldon served from 2006-2008.
To become a member of the LAOH, one must be Irish by birth or decent, or adoption, the wife or mother of a Hibernian, or the mother of a Junior member. One must be a practicing Catholic, and must not be less than 16 years of age.
Maude Gonne Division 32 of Carnegie was organized in 1991 by 15 women who wanted to promote and preserve their Irish heritage. In March 2003, the membership was more than 118, with members from Swissvale to McMurray, and even one in Texas who attend monthly meetings at the Ukrainian-American Citizens Club, 330 Mansfield Blvd, Carnegie.
Allegheny County LAOH, of which Division 32 is a member, was organized in 1898. Division 32 is proud of its many activities and responsibilities that give each sister a sense of accomplishment and pride while enhancing the good of the Order. They have participated in every St. Patrick’s Day Parade since 1991, and received the Mary Long Award for Best Marching Irish Women in 1999 and again in 2003. In 2003 they were awarded the Sara Madigan Award for Best Overall Entry. The Division is highly involved in the annual Irish Writing Contest held for local elementary and high school students to foster an interest in the history of Ireland.
Charitable organizations that have received donations include the Irish Apostolate in America, Echoes of Erin radio program, the AOH Division in New York that suffered many losses on September 11, 2001, the Sisters of St. Joseph Retirement Fund, the Women’s Center and Shelter of Pittsburgh, The Columban Fathers, Carnegie Food Bank, The Sisters of Divine Providence, Miryam’s Center, Red Door Food Assistance, Presents for Patients, Emmaus House, The Columban Sisters, Project St. Patrick, Just Inn Apartment Christian Housing, and local families in need of assistance. At monthly meetings, collections of clothing, bedding, and personal articles are made for Miryam’s, along with gently-used business clothing for Life’s Work.
In our years of existence, we have donated over $60,000 to many worthwhile charities.