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,
reveals their critical impact on the
development of Catholic culture and, ultimately, the building of
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.