Across God's FrontiersCatholic Sisters in the American West, 1850-1920

Across God's FrontiersCatholic Sisters in the American West, 1850-1920

Anne M. Butler

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780807835654

Publisher: University of North Carolina Press


Roman Catholic sisters first traveled to the American West as providers of social services, education, and medical assistance. This book traces the ways in which sisters challenged and reconfigured contemporary ideas about women, work, religion, and the West; moreover, it demonstrates how religious life became a vehicle for increasing women's agency and power. Moving to the West introduced significant changes for these women, including public employment and thoroughly unconventional monastic lives. As nuns and sisters adjusted to new circumstances and immersed themselves in rugged environments, the author argues, the West shaped them; and through their labors and charities, the sisters in turn shaped the West. These female religious pioneers built institutions, brokered relationships between Indigenous peoples and encroaching settlers, and undertook varied occupations, often without organized funding or direct support from the church hierarchy. A comprehensive history of Roman Catholic nuns and sisters in the American West, the book reveals Catholic sisters as dynamic and creative architects of civic and religious institutions in western communities.