Sisters of Mercy Statue
On the shady north side of the California State Capitol, a statue commemorates the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy in Sacramento on October 2, 1857. The bronze sculpture, by artist Ruth Coelho was dedicated in 2007 on the 150th anniversary.
The Sisters of Mercy started in 1831 in Ireland as an order of lay Catholic women, with a mission to help the sick, the homeless and the poor. Five Sisters arrived by steamboat from San Francisco to set up shop in 1857. Sacramento seemed to be a prime candidate for attention, with its population of Gold Rush miners' neglected children, squatters and homeless residents....and seven years after a cholera epidemic ripped through town. Plenty more woe was in store for Old Sac.
How a sculpture to a religious order's aid mission ended up so close to the Capitol is not by accident -- the Sisters owned the property where the building now stands. When they first arrived they bought land in the center of Sacramento to build a school. In 1860, the state passed a bill to buy the land for its original sale price (apparently the Sisters weren't land speculators). Sounds a little fishy, but the Sisters weren't complaining. The plaque doesn't make too big a deal of it.