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O'Brien, Catherine Cecily (1893 - 1945)

25 October 1893
Merriwa, New South Wales, Australia
14 May 1945
Moss Vale, New South Wales, Australia
Educator and Religious Sister
Alternative Names
  • Sister Mary Anselm (religious name)


Born to Australian-born parents of Irish descent, Catherine O'Brien received her senior education at the Dominican Convent, Maitland, where she won a teacher-training scholarship. In July 1914she entered the the same convent, and received the habit in April 1915, taking the religious name of Mary Anselm. She made perpetual vows in April 1917 and remained at Maitland, teaching in the secondary school, until 1920.

She left Maitland In 1921, and moved to Santa Sabina Dominican Convent School, Strathfield,so that she could attend the University of Sydney. She graduated B.A. in 1924 with first-class honours in English and Latin and the University medal for English. She gained her diploma in education in 1925, and in 1928 took a first-class honours M.A. in English literature, with a thesis on tragedy.

She taught at Santa Sabina for twenty years, between 1925-45, and became well known and respected for her innovative methods and range of publications. She was an enthusiastic eductor who aimed to provide a high quality education for girls. She was particularly interested in ensuring that girls received opportunities to participate in sport and other forms of physical education.In 1922 she convened the first meeting of principals of Catholic girls secondary schools to facilitate co-operation in sporting competitions, which became a feature of Catholic schools in the 1930s.

Sources used to compile this entry: Leavey, Margaret Carmel, 'O'Brien, Catherine Cecily (1893-1945)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006,

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