Blessed Marie-Anne, born Esther Blondin in 1809, grew up in a pious French-Canadian family in southern Quebec. As a young adult, she worked for a merchant as a domestic servant, and later for the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, who taught her to read and write.

Esther decided to enter the convent, but was forced to abandon her plans because of her poor health. But knowing how to read and write allowed her to become a teacher, and eventually a director at a parochial school.

At the age of 39, Esther sought to combat illiteracy in her area by founding an order that would teach boys and girls in the same school. In 1848, this was a radical idea, as schools were separated by gender.

Eventually, Esther received permission for her order, and founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Anne. She took the name Marie-Anne, and became the superior. The order’s chaplain gave Marie-Anne a difficult time, eventually having her removed as superior and preventing her from ever holding an administrative role again.

Blessed Marie-Anne spent the last 32 years of her life working in the order’s laundry and ironing room without complaint. Although she was demoted, her order continued to spread throughout Canada and the United States.

Blessed Marie-Anne died in 1890 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2001.