Challenging girls to become women of 
intellect, character, innovation, action, and faith

St. Madeleine Sophie Barat,
portrait by W. Bystram

The Education of Women:
St. Madeleine Sophie Barat (1779-1865)

Madeleine-Sophie Barat was born in France in 1779 in the little Burgundian town of Joigny. She went to Paris in 1795, at the height of the French Revolution, and initially considered becoming a Carmelite. However, her experience of Revolutionary violence in Joigny and Paris led her on another path. In 1800 she founded the Society of the Sacred Heart whose purpose was to make known the love of God revealed in the Heart of Christ, and take part in the restoration of Christian life in France through the education of young women of the rich and the poor classes.

The Society of the Sacred Heart quickly expanded within Europe and beyond. At the same time Sophie Barat also grew, transformed by her experience as leader and friend to so many women who joined her. On another level, Sophie Barat was awake to the social, political, economic and religious currents operating in Europe and in the wider world of her time. By her awareness of their impact on the world of education Sophie Barat ensured the Society’s contribution to the education and the promotion of women in her time and into the future.

By the time of her death in 1865 Sophie Barat guided an international community of 3,359 women, inspired by a deeply held spiritual ideal and offering a service of education to women in Europe, North Africa, North and South America.

Madeleine Sophie Barat was canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic Church on May 25, 1925.