Because her mother died early, Mary Anne Madden was raised mostly by her father, Frances Madden, a well-to-do merchant in the Irish midlands. At eighteen, with her father’s encouragement, she began to publish poetry. After her father’s death in 1844, twenty-four year old Mary Anne moved to Montreal where she worked at various odd jobs before marrying James Sadlier in 1846. Sadlier was the manager and owner of the Canadian branch of the Catholic publishing company founded by himself and his brother Denis, D. & J. Sadlier Company. The company eventually became the largest Catholic publishing house in America after buying the backlist of fellow Irish American publisher John Doyle. During the fourteen years that the Sadliers spent in Montreal, Mary Anne raised six children and began her career as a novelist and essayist. By the time the family moved to New York City in 1860, Sadlier was the best known Irish Catholic writer in America.
After her husband’s death in 1869, Sadlier returned to Montreal to live with her married children. Toward the end of her life, she was undermined by her nephew, William, who took control of the publishing company and the copyrights to her works. Yet friends came to the rescue with monetary support and recommendations. Sadlier also spent time founding and endowing several charities in the 1870s: the Home for the Aged, the Foundling Asylum, and the Home for Friendless Girls. In 1895, Notre Dame University awarded her the Laetare Medal for literature, and in 1902, she received a “special blessing” from Pope Leo XIII in recognition of her “illustrious service to the Catholic Church” (Lacombe, p. 105). She died in 1903 at the age of eighty-three and is buried beside her husband, James, in Calvary Cemetery, Woodside, Long Island.
Sadlier was a prolific writer of sentimental and didactic romances, many of which promote Irish Catholicism in Protestant North America. Several novels