Catholic Nuns in the Civil War

Karen Powers


In an era where women were denied any real careers in life except marriage and motherhood, "A prime attraction of convents was a way of life which gave women, who would otherwise have had no such possibilities, access to effect change, a prominent and active role-in short, a vocation in the world. Sisterhood was seen as a great undertaking in the service of an active and enthusiastic faith."1 These Catholic sisterhoods gave American girls an "alternative to marriage and motherhood, an opportunity for lifelong meaningful work, and a way to live out their spiritual ideals with an all female community that shared similar goals and values."2 Through their travels, their administrative skills, their nursing skills, and their adaptability to any situation, they might have been "sheltered from the world," but these women were definitely in the public sphere.3


Catholic sisterhood; United States Civil War; Sisters of Mercy; nurses; United States Sanitary Commission

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