Maria Epstein 1875-1947

A founder and graduate of The Professional Nurses School of the Company of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul.

Organizer and first director of The University School for Nurses and Hygienists in Cracow.

Born in Pilica nearby Olkusz in 1875. Daughter of Warsaw banker of Jewish origin Leon Epstein and Wiktoria Skarżyńska, of gentry family. In her childhood the family moved to Cracow. Maria was the only girl, she had three step-brothers and large family she was very attached to. She received comprehensive education and patriotism. She could speak several languages, but had no vocational preparation. Before the WW I she lost all her properties inherited from the parents. Not only she accepted this quietly, but moreover she took care for 5 people of former servants advanced in years. She shared with them everything she had until the end of their lives.

Maria Epstein had a deep social and humanitarian responsibility. During the annexation period only charity organizations were allowed to act. So she started work in the ASsocaition of the Daughters of Charity, aiming in care and help for the poor. Ladies collected money, materials, and clothes, refashioned them, repaired or sew a new. They were meeting regularly. After several years Maria, regardless her young age, became a president of this association. Her flat changed into an office and meeting place. Apart from activity in the association, she organized a library and a cheap kitchen for the workers.

In 1909 three members of the association observed accidentally work of a small ambulatory run by the Daughters of Charity in tragic circumstances. There was no doctor, medical and material help, as well as dressing wounds, was offered in the same room as dinners. This cooperation had great results. The place was equipped from socially collected funds and designed only for ambulatory, there was also a medical training in emergency offered.

One initiative was followed by another. An operating room was organized at this ambulatory, then a small 8-bed hospital. Volunteers from the ambulatory were working days and nights – they understood that caring for the patients require professional education. In this time Maria Epsteinówna suggested organization of a nursing school.

With a huge effort, thanks to private donations and fees, the funds for renovation and adaptation of a building given by the Daughters of Charity for a school, a former cowshed. The Professional Nurses School of the Company of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul was opened on November 5th, 1911. Dr Wacław Damski, vice president of the Cracow Medical Chamber, became a director, but in fact the school was run by M. Epstein, as there was no registered nurse able to take this post officially. Maria Epstein and Anna Rydlówna, as well as several members of the ambulatory, were among the first 14 students (they run the school and studied in there simultaneously).

M. Epstein took care for a quality of nursing education. She was very engaged in brining up the students in patriotism and religious life, and also  cared about her own spiritual development, fervent in religious practices.

In the years 1914-1916 Maria Epstein organized short medical courses for volunteers, run by the School graduates. Each trained group took over one of military hospitals at a front line or anywhere else. These groups were sent to Polish formations in the Austrian army. Epsteinówna and Rydkłowna managed this actions, working simultaneously in Prof. Maksymilian Rutkowski’s surgical group at a front line, in medical points in a rest station for soldiers at the Cracow Railway Station. She took part in a support for war victims action, organized by the Ducal and Episcopal Committee. This committee, supervised by Prof. Emil Godlewski, run epidemic hospitals, immunization and disinfection points.

Maria Epstein for a some time was a head nurse in the hospital in Bielcza nearby Tarnów, where – in the result of enormous concentration of evacuated people – epidemics broke out: dysentery, spotted fever, and typhoid fever. At the same time she was training nurses and organizing with them following units. She stayed there during the starting period, then inspected them together with prof. Godlewski. She contributed very much to expiration of epidemics.

In 1916, after the School’s revitalization, Epsteinówna took a director’s post again, fighting with huge financial difficulties either at work or et her own house. She was searching for funds for a school since 1920.

She received help from the Rockefeller Foundation, and acceptance of the Jagiellonian University to open the University School for Nurses and Hygienists, as a supplementary unit of the Faculty of Medicine (1925). Maria Epstein became its director. Together with future teachers, before starting work they were trained abroad. Thanks to energy and perseverance of the director, the school were developing despite of very difficult circumstances.

On December 31st, 1930 Maria Epsteinówna resigned from a director’s post of the Cracow school. She entered the Convent of Dominican Nuns in Cracow. At least she could realize her desire to give herself to God. Sister Maria Magdalena during 16 years of her monastic life was an example of humble servant. During her illnesses she was treated in a surgical clinic at Kopernika 40 street, and during recovery cared in the cloister by the students. She died in 1947 in an odour of sanctity. To the end of her life she was very interested in the school matters and its graduates.

Cardinal Franciszek Macharski opened the beatification process of sister Maria Magdalena Epstein on September 30th, 2004.

Elaborated by Jadwiga Gnich

Source: CAPN archive materials

M.Epstein w stroju pielegniarskim Szkoły Zawodowych Pielegniarek Stowarzyszenia Pań Ekonomek, Archiwum rodziny Koschów, w AKSPP

Maria-Nuna Epstain w swoim pokoju w śród rodzinnych pamiątek,zabytkowych mebli, cennych obrazów, ASD

Zdj. z legitymacji M.Epstein uprawniajaca do pozostania w twierdzy Kraków na  wypadek ewakuacji, ASD

Przyjaciółki Ekonomki w podkrakowskich Bronowicach; Od lewej: Anna Rydlówna, Maria Wiszniewska, Maria Epsteinówna, Elżbieta Dembowska, Archiwum rodziny Koschów



Maria-Nuna Epstein w stroju Ekonomki, AKSPP Kraków Wspomnienia uczennic o Marii Epstein


Wspomnienia uczennic o Marii Epstein


Notatki Hanny Chrzanowskiej o Marii Epstein


Życiorys M.Epstein - rękopis (roboczy) Hanny Chrzanowskiej,
sporządzony na podstawie informacji uzyskanych od Anny Rydlówny


Życiorys M.Epstein - rękopis (roboczy) Hanny Chrzanowskiej,
sporządzony na podstawie informacji uzyskanych od Anny Rydlówny




Szpital wojskowy 1919-1920




Absolwentki "Starej Szkoły Krakowskiej" w czasie I wojny światowej Na górze z prawej: Stacja opatruknowa na Dworcu Głównym w Krakowie Na dole z prawnej: Grupa prof. Rutkowskiego - szpital polowy; stoi od lewej: Fiszerówna, siedzą: druga od lewej M. Epstein, obok Maria Wiszniewska, stoi dr. Kruk

Ze zbiorów Archiwum SS. Dominikanek (ASD). Klasztor SS.Dominikanek "Na Gródku" w Krakowie:

Maria Epstein (3-a z lewej) z odznaczonymi przedstawicielami służby sanitarnej PCK) Kraków ok.1915 ze zbirów SiM Hanarz Dworcowa stacja opatrunkowa 5-a z lewej Maria Epstein, Kraków 1915, ze zbiorów SiM Haczarz Kraków Personel Dworcowej Stacji Opatrunkowej w Krakowie 1915r. (w górnym rzędzie 3-a z lewej Maria Epstein (ze zbiorów SiM Hanarz Kraków

Personel szpitalny z przodu z lewej (w środku) s.Magdalena M. Epstein Rok 1916


Oleszyce 1915r. Centrala K.B.K. (Książęco-Biskupi Komitet) Maria Epstein (s.Magdalena) na wozie. Z lewej prof. UJ Emil Godlewski, z prawej ks. J.Konieczny

Dworcowa Stacja Opatrunkowa Kraków ok. 1915; w I rzędzie od lewej siedzi Komendant Safer, w II rzędzie obok ks.J.Koniecznego stoi M.Epstein (ze zbiorów SiM Hanorz w Krakowie) I Wojna Światowa 1915r. s.Magdalena - w czarnej spódniczce



I Wojna Światowa - 1915r. na froncie, z lewej- s.Magdalena Epstein




Wśród wyróżnionych Krzyżem Zasługi,
w I-ym rzędzie 2-a w środku
Maria Epstein
Legitymacja z 1915 r.
zgoda na zostanie
Marii Epstein w Krakowie
Rok 1914 Maria Epstein (s.Magdalena) w stroju pielęgniarskim


Dworcowa Stacja Opatrunkowa w Krakowie 1914r. w I rzędzie 3-a z lewej Maria Epstein
(ze zbiorów SiM. Honarz
w Krakowie)
Krankenhaustation 1914r. w czasie przerw w pracy s.Magdalena Epstein
siedzi na ławce przed stołem
Rok 1915 lato, Zapolów-przed kościołem s.Magdalena Epstein z s.św.Wincentego a'Paulo (szarytką) Krankenhaustation w Krakowie, wrzesień 1914r.



Wojna 1914r. Maria Epstein (s.Magdalena) w grupie chirurgicznej prof. UJ M.Rutkowskiego Rok 1914, I rząd, w środku Komendant K.Safer, obok z kwiatami - Maria Epstein, (ze zbioru Z. i St. Kosch) Grupa chirurgiczna prof. UJ Maksymiliana Rutkowskiego, 1915r., 3-a z lewej Maria Epstein

The canonization process of sister Magdalena Maria Epstein

Fragments from: Bożena Weber, Wierna miłości Służebnica Boża siostra Magdalena Maria Epstein OP (1875-1947). Kraków: Klasztor Sióstr Dominikanek „Na Gródku” 2008.

Despite a deep vocation of sister Magdalena Maria Epstein OP to a monastic and enclosed life, entrance of an evangelical, mature Martha to other, new life of Maria behind a cloister wicket was not an easy task. She had a shortened novitiate period, dutifully realizing all her tasks and obligations. With her attitude of exceedingly dutiful and fervent nun, who submitted herself to her supervisors with no resistance (even if she had been a manager before), she edified the others with “her simplicity, humility and obedience”. (…)

She was paralyzed at the left part of her body. Last five years of her life she suffered accepting God’s will, and offered this for a quick returning of the sisters (displaced). In her retreat decisions she wrote: I want to love Jesus for present and future time and for all these years I have not loved Him sufficiently. Do not run away from crosses; suffering, I can show God that I love Him. When sisters returned to the monastery, she died after 6 years of serious illness, in the first Saturday of a month, on September 6th, 1947.

Soon after her death nurses started collecting materials to her biography, hoping for her beatification. However, only sisters’ endeavours ended with opening this process of their sister. On August 5th, 2003 they asked cardinal Franciszek Macharski to open the canonization process of the God’s servant in the monastery church…

After starting the process, hearings of witnesses, and commissions’ works have started. The Historical Commission aimed in collecting documents concerning life, heroic virtues, and odour of sancity of Maria Epstein. The Teological Commission was to analyse and evaluate her writings. Collected documents refer to her youth, abroad journeys, works on organizing beginnings of Polish nursing, and her participation in caring for the injured and sick during the WW I and after independence regainment, together with testimonies of her monastic life. The Commissions finalized their works with reports and presenting teological opinion. Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz closed a diocesan level of a canonization process on April 20th, 2007, transmitting the documents to the Canonization Congregation in Rome.

Source: B. Weber, Wierna miłości Służebnica Boża siostra Magdalena Maria Epstein OP (1875-1947). Kraków: Klasztor Sióstr Dominikanek „Na Gródku” 2008, pp. 182-183.