Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat founded the Society of the Sacred Heart in France on November 21, 1800. Born in Joigny, France, the daughter of a wine cooper, Madeleine Sophie Barat was educated beyond the norms of her contemporaries and well-suited for leadership of a religious community dedicated to prayer and education. In Paris, on November 21, 1800, at the age of twenty, she and three other young women consecrated themselves to “make known the revelation of God’s love.” Centered in personal and communal prayer, they set out to give young women a classical education -- not common in their day -- and to offer religious studies and practical skills. They began to call themselves the Society of the Sacred Heart.
Sophie’s goal was to educate girls so that they could have a transforming influence in society. She believed that women must make themselves capable of doing what men do: act on society so as to transform it. Her vision of education rooted in her experience of Christ gave rise to a complete and coherent system of pedagogical thought responding to the conviction that our natural identity is to be God’s beloved.
In 1806, Mother Barat (women religious took the title Mother or Sister in addition to their family name), was elected superior general. During her 65-year leadership, the Society of the Sacred Heart grew to include more than 3,500 members, including 84 Sacred Heart boarding schools and 74 free schools. Madeleine Sophie died on May 25, 1865. She was canonized in 1925.