Did you know that the Sisters of St. Joseph went to court in 1894 to defend the right to wear habits while teaching in the Gallitzin Public School District?
They won their case, but it was overturned the following year when the state legislature approved the so-called “garb law,” which forbade public school teachers from wearing religious attire and insignia. The law had a rippling effect across the country.
We invite you to watch the dedication ceremony for the historical state marker that was unveiled June 23, 2021, in Gallitzin, PA, to learn about how our Sisters made history and how the story continues today.
“The Sisters of St. Joseph didn’t set out to make history. Since our founding in 1869 in nearby Ebensburg, we have been called to serve wherever needed, to respond to the urgent needs of the times,” said Sister Sharon Costello, CSJ, Congregational Moderator.
“We have remained faithful and committed to humbly serving God and every dear neighbor without distinction: from teaching public school students of Gallitzin more than a century ago to providing foster care to children, growing fresh produce for families, and engaging young adults in our social justice initiatives today.”
The marker reads: “In 1894, the Pa. Supreme Court ruled that the Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph were permitted to wear religious attire while teaching in Gallitzin public schools. In response, the Pa. legislature passed the 1895 Garb Act, forbidding public school teachers from wearing religious clothing or insignia. In the years since, state and federal courts have sought to balance the right to religious expression with the principles of secular public education.”
The historical marker designation is one of 24 announced by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) in March 2020. There are nearly 2,300 of the gold-lettering-on-blue signs throughout Pennsylvania, chronicling what the PHMC describes as “the people, places and events that have affected the lives of Pennsylvanians over the centuries.”
Click any photo to scroll through the gallery below.