Angela Merici (1474-1540) was born in Lombardy, near Lake Garda. Orphaned as a child she became a Franciscan tertiary and devoted herself with several companions to the education of poor girls. Whilst on a pilgrimage to the holy lands in 1524 she was suddenly stricken blind on the isle of Crete. She continued on her way to the Holy Land and returning through Crete she was cured of her blindness.
In 1535 Angela and 12 companions committed themselves to founding the Company of
St Ursula, dedicated to elevating Christian family life through the education of wives and mothers. They wore no special habit and did not take religious vows. Later St Angela wrote a rule for the order and she was elected its Mother and Mistress. The Ursulines were only accepted as a Congregation in 1565, after her death.