Janet Erskine Stuart was born November 11, 1857 in the Anglican Rectory of Cottesmore, Rutland, England. As a child of thirteen, she set out on a solitary search for Truth, having been urged to this venture by a casual remark of one of her brothers that every rational creature must have a last end. The search for this last end took, she said, seven years and brought her to the Catholic Church at the age of twenty-one. In 1882, she entered the Society of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton, outside of London, where she was to spend 30 years of her religious life. Named Mistress of Novices soon after her profession, she became Superior in 1894, and 17 years later was elected the sixth Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart. While Superior General, Janet Stuart set as a goal to know all the religious personally and visited every community in the Society throughout the world.
Janet Stuart's influence extends throughout the world primarily through her writings. Religious of the Sacred Heart as well as many other congregations and individuals committed to spiritual growth and educational excellence have been inspired by her conferences, essays, and poetry. Among Stuart's best known works are Highways and Byways of the Spiritual Life, (1909) and The Education of Catholic Girls (1912).
Janet Stuart died a few months after the outbreak of World War I, on October 21, 1914.