New Women of the Old Faith

New Women of the Old Faith: Gender and American Catholicism in the Progressive Era

KATHLEEN SPROWS CUMMINGS
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9780807889848_cummings
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  • Book Info
    New Women of the Old Faith
    Book Description:

    American Catholic women rarely surface as protagonists in histories of the United States. Offering a new perspective, Kathleen Sprows Cummings places Catholic women at the forefront of two defining developments of the Progressive Era: the emergence of the "New Woman" and Catholics' struggle to define their place in American culture. Cummings highlights four women: Chicago-based journalist Margaret Buchanan Sullivan; Sister Julia McGroarty, SND, founder of Trinity College in Washington, D.C., one of the first Catholic women's colleges; Philadelphia educator Sister Assisium McEvoy, SSJ; and Katherine Eleanor Conway, a Boston editor, public figure, and antisuffragist. Cummings uses each woman's story to explore how debates over Catholic identity were intertwined with the renegotiation of American gender roles.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0599-9
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    In 1897, Right Reverend Patrick Ludden, the bishop of Syracuse, New York, shared his thoughts on the study of the past. “Too often,” he observed, “it ishis story, nothistory.” At the time, the bishop was exhorting historians to maintain absolute objectivity, to refuse to allow their “ontological training, religious prejudices, social environment or political predilections” to influence their interpretation of past lives and events. This advice may appear quaintly naïve in a postmodern age. But the admonition of this nineteenthcentury prelate still rings true in another context: historians of U.S. Catholicism continue to write “his” story, overlooking women...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Chiefly among Women: THE OLD FAITH, THE NEW WOMAN, AND THE CREATION OF A USABLE PAST
    (pp. 17-58)

    In 1875, “An American Woman” published an article in theCatholic Worldthat represented an outraged response to a comment made by William Gladstone, the former (and future) prime minister of Great Britain. Speaking of the growth of the Catholic Church in England, Gladstone had observed that “the conquests have been chiefly, as might have been expected, among women.” Across the Atlantic, “An American Woman” bristled at the insult, interpreting Gladstone’s comment as “an indirect and ungraceful way of saying that the Catholic Church brings conviction more readily to weaker than to stronger intellects, and that because the ‘conquests’ are...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Enlarging Our Lives: HIGHER EDUCATION, AMERICANISM, AND TRINITY COLLEGE FOR CATHOLIC WOMEN
    (pp. 59-100)

    In November 1900, Sister Julia McGroarty presided over the opening of Trinity College for Catholic women in Washington, D.C. McGroarty, the American provincial superior of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SND), had by that point dedicated more than fifty years of her life to educating Catholic young women and girls. The success of her final and most ambitious venture had depended in large part on her ability to underscore the essential differences between the future Trinity student and the threatening New Woman. Early publicity for the college had emphasized that “while the New Woman, with her head full...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Wageless Work of Paradise: CATHOLIC SISTERS, PROFESSIONALIZATION, AND THE SCHOOL QUESTION
    (pp. 101-156)

    In 1905, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sponsored an essay contest on Christian doctrine, a subject that had recently become the cornerstone of the curriculum in the city’s Catholic schools. Mary Donohue, a student at Cathedral Girls’ High School Centre, received a prize for her composition, “The Home Art.” Donohue’s teachers, the Sisters of St. Joseph (SSJ), must have been particularly pleased. The congregation took a proprietary interest in Christian doctrine: one of their own, Sister Assisium McEvoy, was the author of the official archdiocesan textbook on the subject.¹ No doubt the nuns were also flattered by the essay’s content. Donohue...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Morbid Consciousness of Womanhood: CATHOLICISM, ANTISUFFRAGE, AND THE LIMITS OF SISTERHOOD
    (pp. 157-196)

    Katherine E. Conway, a journalist and author based in Boston, frequently commented on the constellation of issues that constituted “the woman question” in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. Like most other Catholics, Conway had little patience for the New Woman’s wholesale renunciation of ties to tradition, family, and community, and she criticized her for “clamor[ing] for new spheres of influence, or the reform of the universe.”¹ Most significant, however, Conway despised the New Woman for introducing a scourge into American society, a disease to which she believed she and other Catholic women were immune: “the modern malaria of the...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 197-238)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-262)
  11. Index
    (pp. 263-278)