Livia Pietrantoni was the second of eleven children born to poor agricultural workers in Pozzaglia, a small Sabine town in central Italy. She was apparently quite reverent even as a child and opted for a nun's life rather than marrying one of the local lads, many of whom seemed to fancy her.
Childhood was no easy time for her. At age seven, with most of the other children in the area, she was hauling sacks of crushed stone for a road-building project. Who needs mules with families of ten or more children scattered all over the countryside, right? By twelve, she was a migrant olive harvester in the Tivoli region, working in camps for abusive bosses.
She was, therefore, well prepared for the life of a nun in a strictly anti-religious hospital in Rome. Italy in the 1880s, newly united after centuries of division, was struggling to find balance with the Papacy. To find that balance, the Government took over schools, hospitals, and other institutions that the Church had founded and maintained. Then they kicked out the priests, ripped down the crucifixes, and forbade staff from mentioning God. They would have kicked out the nuns, too, but that would have been going to far, since nuns do miserable work for sub-poverty wages. Like I say, they were struggling to find the balance.
When she first got to Santo Spirito Hospital (sic: it's Italian, not Latin), she was assigned to the children's ward. Although scrupulous about not mentioning God, she decided to let her attitude and diligence proclaim the Gospel for her. In the classic dynamic that drives so many workplace dramas, the cranky old boss did not like her irrepressible spunk, so she reassigned her to the infectious disease ward.
You can't keep a good saint down (for a while, anyway). Livia (now called Sister Agostina) contracted typhus, malaria, and tuberculosis while working there, but recovered from them all. She secured a little nook somewhere in the hospital and said prayers there for everyone -- patients, bosses, co-workers, even a deranged, abusive patient named Joseph Romanelli. Romanelli was beyond hateful, and so Sister Agostina singled him out for especially kind care. His blind mother used to visit him, and Agostina took special pains to see that she was comfortable, even in the face of the patient's incessant abuses. However, Romanelli wore out his welcome by raping the laundry workers in the hospital. Once booted out, he sent threatening notes back to Agostina, promising to return and kill her. And he did. On November 13, 1894, he attacked the 30-year old nun with an intention of raping her. In this he was not successful, but he did fatally stab her. As she died, she prayed for his forgiveness.