Saturday, May 17, 2014


  was born in Anacortes, Wa. (as the Eagle flies just a few miles from our Island) in 1914. She was the youngest of nine children. She attributes her gifts to: "the imagination came from my father and his wonderful heritage of Irish fantasy, and the technical skill from my mother, who had incredibly skillful hands".

She graduated from Anacortes High School in 1931and spent one year at the University of Washington, after which she entered the Dominican novitiate at Everett (the motherhouse has since been moved to Edmonds), Washington, where she made profession in January 1934. She then returned to college at the Jesuits' Gonzaga University in Spokane receiving a BA. Three years later she  was awarded a Master of Fine Arts from California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland.

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She once wrote: The only truly brilliant thing I have ever done was to enter the Dominican Order, that vast storehouse of sanctity, learning and charity which allows even a very small depositer to take out great fortunes of spiritual and intellectual assistance".

"During my novitiate years, my Novice-Mistress made up her mind that there was no reason at all why I should not cut out silhouettes". From a single sheet of paper, Sister Mary Jean started cutting continuous flowing silhouettes. By the 1940s, she was recognized as one of the leading American paper cutters. Sister Mary Jean gained a deserved reputation as both a published author and artist.

Our Lady of Seattle

"...perhaps Our Lady- who is my general manager- understands that I am not the rugged sort who can get along entirely on my own, sufficient unto myself and unconcerned what the rest of the world thinks. It makes me very happy to receive letters from Mexico and Iceland and India from people who have read my books, and to know that my silhouettes are hanging on the walls of a convent near the South Pole and in a rectory in Denmark and in Bankok and Ireland. Last year I met a young Dominican student from Hong-Kong who says he learned to read English from one of my books, and there is a young couple in the midwest who each year make up the family Christmas card with one of my silhouettes as background and their lovely children in front. A mission chapel in Louisiana has two of my pictures on the walls, beautifully enlarged and painted by the parishioners; and every Christmas there are the wonderful letters from people all over the world, more than outweighing the inevitable scars and struggles of a tough profession.

Ladder to Heaven

There still remains the identifying question as to whether I am a silhouettist who also writes books, or an author who also illustrates. It will be simplest if I just say that I do not know, and have no strong feeling either way".

Perhaps her enduring legacy was to train artist Dan Paulos, who has carried on the tradition of paper cutting and has himself become an internationally known artist. (more on his lovely work later).

Sister Dorcy’s final book, “Spring Comes to the Hill Country,” was collaboration with Paulos. One of her cuttings is housed in the Smithsonian Institute.  A close friend of our has many of her original paper cuts. We have "hinted" that we know some nuns who would like one or two!

Spring Comes...

Sister Mary Jean Dorcy died May 5, 1988 after a long struggle with acute arthritis and lung ailments. She had been bedridden for the last 10 years.

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