It was founded in Milwaukee in 1850 by the School Sisters of Notre Dame as a girls' seminary named St. Mary's Institute. It reopened in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin in 1872. The school introduced a college curriculum in 1913, and was renamed Mount Mary College, becoming the first women's college in Wisconsin. After the Archbishop of the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese requested that the college move to Milwaukee to serve a wider group of students, an campus was purchased on the west side of Milwaukee. The cornerstone of the new school was laid in 1928, and it opened its doors to students in 1929.