Mary Anne Cosgrave (Mother Patrick)

Mary Anne Cosgrave

(1863 – 1900)

Mary Anne Cosgrave [spelled Cosgrove in some accounts], pioneer nurse in Rhodesia and Dominican Sisters Prioress, was born May 1863 in Summerhill, County Meath, Ireland.  She was the second youngest of four children.  Both her parents died of tuberculosis when she was young.  She was then raised by her father’s cousin, John Cosgrave, in County Wexford.  She attended the Loreto Convent Secondary School in Enniscorthy until age 15.  When only 17 years old, she responded to a call for postulants and traveled to South Africa to join the Dominican Sisters Convent in King William’s Town. She celebrated her final profession as a nun in 1882, taking the name Mary Patrick.  Sister Patrick would spend the next nine years as a teacher in and around King Williams Town.

In 1889, Sister Patrick and a party of four other Dominican Sisters volunteered to provide nursing services in support of the “Pioneer Column” then being assembled by the British South Africa Company for the occupation of Mashonaland. Sister Patrick was appointed Mother Superior in charge.  The sisters traveled separately from the main column, spending time at the hospitals in Mafeking and Macloutsie, Bechuanaland, before reaching Salisbury in July 1891, ten months after the Pioneer Column first arrived. At Salisbury, the sisters took charge of the rudimentary hospital that had been set up. In October 1892, Mother Patrick opened the Salisbury Convent, the first school in Salisbury and one of the first schools in Rhodesia.  Mother Patrick and the Dominican Sisters were called upon again to provide nursing care when, in 1896, Southern Rhodesia was engulfed in the uprisings of both the Ndebele and Shona.

Two years later, the Rhodesian Dominicans were separated from the house at King Williams’s Town to form their own independent community, now known as the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Although in ill health, Mother Patrick was unanimously elected Prioress of the new community in 1899.  Her health continued to deteriorate, and she died of tuberculosis in July 1900 at the age of 37.  Mother Patrick was highly revered.  She was awarded the Order of the Royal Red Cross by Queen Victoria and her funeral, the largest held in the territory up until that time, was personally attended by Cecil Rhodes. In November 1970, Rhodesia issued a stamp in her honor, No. 4 in the Famous Figures Series.

Stamps Issues


  • James Gavin