Skip to Main Content

Spanish: Home

History of the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Menlo

Helen Araujo - El Salvador - 1914-1981

Mother: Dora Morton
Father: Arturo Araujo

Helen Araujo came to Convent of the Sacred Heart, Menlo (now SHS, Atherton) in 1925. fShe graduated as valedictorian in 1929.  Her father was elected president of El Salvador in 1931, then overthrown in a military coup later that year.  The Araujo family fled to Guatemala and, eventually, to England where Helen became an adventurous traveler.  Eventually, Helen married and wrote a Vogue Magazine article about living on a coffee plantation in Guatemala.

Coralia Trigueros - Guatemala - 1902 - 1918 (Theme: Influenza Epidemic in the Bay Area)

Mother:Julia Contreras
Father: Ricardo Trigueros

Coralia arrived with her sister, Edelmira, at Convent of the Sacred Heart, Menlo (now SHS, Atherton) on February 3, 1918. She died on campus of Influenza on October 26, 1918.  Her sister Edelmira remained at "Menlo" until 1920, when she transferred to Convent of the Sacred Heart, San Francisco. The articles below describe the impact of the influenza epidemic on the Bay Area.

Elena (Emilia) Guirola, Guatemala, 1892-1978 (Theme: Fourteen Families of El Salvador)

Mother: Emilia Drews
Father: Angel Guirola

Elena (aka Helene) Guirola, was born into one of the wealthiest and most influential families of El Salvador.  Her grandfather was once President of the country and her father founded the bank of El Salvador.  The Guirolas are one of the "fourteen families" of El Salvador and continue to have extensive land holdings used for coffee production to this day.  The Convent of the Sacred Heart, Menlo (now SHS, Atherton) was a favorite school for the daughters of the fourteen families during the 20th C. Elena came to Convent in 1908, at the age of 16.  It was common at the time for women from even the most influential families to retreat from public notice after marriage.  Note that when she is mentioned in the news after her wedding,  Elena is referred to by her husband's name, Mrs. Mervyn Hitchcock.

Rosita (1888-1962) and Josephine Nieto (1891 - ?) - Mexico

Mother: Rosa Viosca de Nieto
Father: Rodolpho Nieto

Rosita and Josephine Nieto were the daughters of a wealthy Mexican silver miner and landholder.  Their father had partnered with Alvinza Hayward, a well known gold mining millionaire and namesake of Hayward, CA.  After they attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Menlo (now SHS, Atherton), they became prominent members of San Francisco society, mixing with the Haywards and Spreckels.  When they attempted to return to Mexico in 1917, they they were forced to end their journey in Los Angeles due to the worsening violence of the Mexican Revolution.  Neither Rosita or Josephine returned to live in Mexico, settling in New Orleans (Rosita) and England (Josephine) with their husbands.

Leonora Mejia - El Salvador - 1892-1992

Mother: Gertrudes Guirola de Mejia
Father: Encarnacion Mejia

Leonore Mejia came to Convent of the Sacred Heart, Menlo (now SHS, Atherton) in 1913 and surprised society by entering the RSCJ. She came from a prominent family in San Francisco, where her father was the Consul from El Salvador. Sister Mejia earned a BA and MA from Fordham University while she was a Novitiate in Albany, NY and a PhD from Stanford after returning to California.  She eventually became the first President of the San Francisco College for Women, an RSCJ college which is now the University of San Francisco. 

Margaurita Espinosa - US Territory of New Mexico - 1906-2002

Mother: A.M. Espinosa
Father: Dr. Aurelio Espinosa

Margaurita Espinosa was born in a U.S. territory that later became New Mexico.  Her father, a descendant of Spanish New Mexicans, was a renowned professor of Spanish at Stanford University known for his studies of Spanish American folklore. In 1921, the RSCJ partnered with Professor Aurelio Espinosa to open College of the Sacred Heart on their Menlo campus (now SHS, Atherton). Classes began with nine departments, offering an AA and four year degree.  Margaurita Espinosa, Dr. Espinosa's daughter, was one of the first students to enroll in classes, eventually transferring to Stanford.  After completing both a BA in English and MA in Spanish at Stanford, Ms. Espinosa became the principal of Castilleja School.

Transfer Students Susanna and Mercedes Beltrau - 1914 (Theme: Attacks on Catholic Institutions during Mexican Revolution)

Mother: Rosa Rica
Father: Angel Beltrau

Churches and clergy were targeted for attack during the Mexican Revolution.  Eventually, Catholic land holdings were confiscated by the new government. The Convent of the Sacred Heart, Menlo (now SHS, Atherton) took in many students from network schools between 1913-1915, when the political situation became unsafe for Catholic institutions.  Susanna and Mercedes Beltrau, sisters, came to Convent of the Sacred Heart, Menlo in 1913 from the network school in Guadalajara. The nuns from their school, the  Sacred Heart Convent of Guadalajara, had fled in advance of an army that was pillaging churches and convents.  Before fleeing, they placed an American flag over the Convent.  They made their way to the United States in cattle cars and in a ship's hold next to the coal bunker.  After landing in San Francisco, the nuns traveled east and were given refuge at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Lake Forest, near Chicago.

Rosaura Obarrio - Panama - 1903-1995 (Theme: Panama Canal)

Mother: Ryah de Obarrio
Father: Alberto de Obarrio

Panamanian student Rosaura Obarrio came to Convent of the Sacred Heart, Menlo (formerly SHS, Atherton) in 1918, just a few years after the completion of the Panama Canal. Her family had strong political ties with both the United States and England.  One great grandfather Ramon was a hero in the independence movement from Spain and signed the Independence Act in 1821.  Her aunt founded the Red Cross of Panama and married an English ambassador. Her uncle was instrumental in the separatist movement from Colombia that allowed Panama to negogiate the construction of the Panama Canal directly with the United States.  Her fathers and uncles studied in the United States and later sent their children to study there.

Melida Moisant - El Salvador - 1900-1992

Mother: Souisa Palma
Father: George Moisant

Melida attended Convent of the Sacred Heart, Menlo from 1915-1918.  Her father, an American, had settled in El Salvador with his three brothers and the family made their fortunes in agriculture and industry. After leaving Sacred Heart, Melida married Louis Hockwald in San Francisco.  They returned to El Salvador to claim Melida's portion of the Moissant fortune upon the death of her father and uncles.  During a contentious exchange, Melida's cousin shot Louis.  Melida eventually shot her cousin in revenge for her husband's death.

Soledad Wheelock, Nicaragua, 1908-2004

Mother: Maria Carazo
Father: Thomas Wheelock

When Maria Simona Soledad Wheelock Carazo was 8 years old, she sailed to San Francisco with her mother and sister from Nicaragua to begin school at Convent of the Sacred Heart, Menlo.  At the time, the great wealth held by the Central American elite was a source of interest to the general public and newspapers covered their arrival in San Francisco. She was a boarder "Convent" school for the next 12 years.  Read the admissions bulletin and interview with one of her contemporaries, Sister Margaret Robinson, to learn what life was like as a boarder at that time.  

Mariana Rosales, Honduras, 1902-? (Theme: Honduras/U.S. Tensions)

Mother: Concha Fortin
Father: Maximo Rosales

General Maximo Rosales, father of Mariana and Marie Christino Rosales, was an influential politician from Honduras who had a contentious relationship with the U.S. government.  He held various positions in Honduras, including Vice President (see "the Congress of Honduras").  General Rosales resisted the pressure both the U.S. government and the United Fruit Company exerted on Honduras.  During a period of more stable relations between the two countries, he was a delegate to a congressional hearing on creating a Pan-American Neutral League.  During this time, he came to San Francisco to enroll his daughters at Convent of the Sacred Heart, Menlo. When their ship landed in San Francisco, the family was followed by detectives ("Sleuths Keep Tab of Noted Visitor").  Unfortunately, relations between Honduras and the United States deteriorated and on a subsequent visit in 1917 General Rosales was deported.  Mariana and Marie Christino remained at Convent, Menlo until 1919.

Louisa (1882-1967) and Guadalupe (1881-1985) Rivas - Mexico

Mother:  Guadalupe Rivas
Father: Dr. Isaac Rivas

Dr. Isaac Rivas was named the Mexican Consul to San Francisco in 1869.  He remained in the city, raising his three daughters Louisa, Guadalupe and Amelia and two sons, Issac and Francis.  The family was privileged and often featured in newspaper articles about the "smart set."  They were  described as "one of the oldest and most prominent Spanish families of California."  The Rivas sisters were among the earliest boarding students at Convent of the Sacred Heart, Menlo (now Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton).  They registered for the school in 1899, only months after the school opened in 1898. During a visit to Mexico, their sister Amelia was kidnapped by insurgents and held for three days at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution.  Guadalupe Rivas, a graduate of the class of 1900, returned to SHS for the school's 75th anniversary at the age of 90.