Cover image for Spirited lives : how nuns shaped Catholic culture and American life, 1836-1920
Spirited lives : how nuns shaped Catholic culture and American life, 1836-1920
Coburn, Carol.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill, N.C. : University of North Carolina Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 327 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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BX4220.U6 C63 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Made doubly marginal by their gender and by their religion, American nuns have rarely been granted serious scholarly attention. Instead, their lives and achievements have been obscured by myths or distorted by stereotypes. Placing nuns into the mainstream of American religious and women's history for the first time, Spirited Lives reveals their critical impact on the development of Catholic culture and, ultimately, the building of American society.

Focusing on the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, one of the largest and most diverse American sisterhoods, Carol Coburn and Martha Smith explore how nuns directly influenced the lives of millions of Americans, both Catholic and non-Catholic, through their work in schools, hospitals, orphanages, and other social service institutions. Far from functioning as passive handmaidens for Catholic clergy and parishes, nuns created, financed, and administered these institutions, struggling with, and at times resisting, male secular and clerical authority.

A rich and multifaceted narrative, Spirited Lives illuminates the intersection of gender, religion, and power in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century America.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Writing the early story of the Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet, a community of French origin, history professors Coburn and Smith (Avila Coll.) offer a broad context for the influence of nuns on American life. In 1836, six French sisters founded a school for deaf children in St. Louis. The community gradually developed schools, hospitals, and other social institutions throughout the United States. As local congregations dealt with patriarchy, frontier rigors, bigotry, governance issues, and clerical clashes, the Sisters of St. Joseph established a remarkable record of achievement in education and healthcare, serving through epidemics and wars under extreme circumstances, largely financing themselves, and selflessly influencing millions. This readable scholarly work, heavily documented with a careful interweaving of primary and secondary sources, is written from a feminist perspective. The authors have made an important contribution to a neglected corner of American religious history. Highly recommended for history and religion collections.ÄAnna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 The French Connection: Founders, Origins, and Early Activities
Chapter 2 Creating an American Identity: Survival and Expansion in the American Milieu
Chapter 3 Educating the Good Sister: Gender and Religious Identity
Chapter 4 Expanding American Catholic Culture: Life in the Trans-Mississippi West
Chapter 5 Promulgating the Faith: Parochial Schools and American Catholic Identity
Chapter 6 Educating for Catholic Womanhood: Secondary Academies and Women's Colleges
Chapter 7 Succoring the Needy: Nursing, Hospitals, and Social Services
Selected Bibliography
First CSJ convent in Carondelet, Missouri Sister Celestine Pommerel
Members of the Ireland family
Young postulant dressed as a bride before receiving the habit
Irish "recruits" for CSJ communities
Young girls feeding the chickens at St. Joseph's Girls' Home
Sister Monica Corrigan and her sister companions
CSJs and Native American students at San Xavier del Bac Mission
Our Lady of Lourdes School
St. Vincent de Paul School, first CSJ parochial school
Music class at St. Peter's School
Sister Francis Joseph Ivory and her class
Senior class, St. Joseph's Institute
Physics class, St. Teresa's Academy
Latin class at the College of St. Catherine
Art class at the College of St. Catherine
Horse-drawn ambulance in front of St. Mary's Hospital
CSJ nurses and soldiers at the military hospital at Matanzas, Cuba
Surgery, St. Mary's Hospital
Immigrant child before and after entering Aemilianum Orphan Asylum
Toddlers at lunch, St. Joseph's Infant Home