The Daughters of Charity National Health System (DCNHS) was established in St. Louis in 1986, but its roots extend back to 1633, when St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac founded the Daughters of Charity in France. When Pope Clement IX granted permission for the Daughters to live outside the cloister in 1668, the tone for their ministry was set: They would go where they were needed, putting their mission to work in the real world.
In 1809, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton formed what was to become the American Daughters of Charity in Emmitsburg, Md. Nineteen years later, in response to westward expansion set in motion with the Louisiana Purchase of 1804, the Daughters journeyed to the frontier in St. Louis to provide medical care to settlers. There they established a hospital in a three-room log cabin.
Over the next century and a half, as the need for quality healthcare grew in the United States, the Daughters dispatched Sisters from St. Louis to existing hospitals in Maryland and New Orleans and eventually opened additional hospitals in Maryland as well as California, Michigan and Washington, D.C.
In the 1940s, the Daughters began sharing services among their hospitals in an effort to bring greater efficiency to their healthcare ministry. These efforts laid the groundwork for what would become the Daughters of Charity National Health System. By 1999, the DCNHS included nearly 80 hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics and other healthcare facilities in 15 states.