Roman Catholic sisters first traveled to the American West as providers of social services, education, and medical assistance. In Across God’s Frontiers, Anne M. Butler traces the ways in which sisters challenged and reconfigured contemporary ideas about women, work, religion, and the West; moreover, she 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 unconventional monastic lives. As nuns and sisters adjusted to new circumstances and immersed themselves in rugged environments, the West shaped them; and through their labors and charities, they 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, Across God’s Frontiers reveals these women as dynamic and creative architects of civic and religious institutions in western communities.
About the author: Anne M. Butler is trustee professor emerita at Utah State University and past editor of the Western Historical Quarterly. Author of numerous articles and books, including Daughters of Joy, Sisters of Misery, she has published extensively on matters of race, class, and gender in the history of the American West.
“As Butler explains the interaction between the American West and the Catholic nuns missioned there, she produces a richly textured study complemented by prodigious research and elegant writing. More than a synthesis of secondary literature, Butler’s book renders a gracefully woven interpretation of the entire region.” (Carol K. Coburn, Avila University)
“A profound undertaking that demonstrates the powerful nexus between gender, religion, and region. This skillful blend of narrative and analysis unites oftenignored contributions of Roman Catholic nuns with the metaphorical, if not mythical, significance and influence of the American West.” (Roberto R. Treviño, University of Texas, Arlington)
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