About ten years into the marriage, her husband's business failed and soon after he died, leaving Elizabeth a widow with five small children. Elizabeth needed to support her family, and to ensure the education of her children she opened a school in Boston. From the beginning she ran it along the lines of a religious community. She also established a Catholic girl‘s school in Baltimore and she founded the Sisters of Charity in 1809, the first native American religious community for women.
She is patron against in-law problems, against the death of children, against the death of parents. She has the Apostleship of the Sea (two of her sons worked on the sea) and is patron of opposition of Church authorities and people ridiculed for their piety.