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Women and American Catholicism

This course is a history of American Catholic women from the colonial period to the present. We will explore the following themes: the role of religious belief and practice in shaping Catholics’ understanding of gender differences; the experience of women in religious communities and in family life; women’s involvement in education and social reform; ethnic and racial diversity among Catholic women; devotional life; the development of feminist theology, and the emergence of the “new feminism” as articulated by Pope John Paul II. We will seek to understand how Catholic women, both lay and religious, contributed to the development of Church and nation, and examine how encounters with the broader American society have shaped Catholic women’s relationship to the institutional church over the last three centuries.


This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.

Kathleen Sprows Cummings

University of Notre Dame

Private College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies, American Studies, Theology, Women's Studies

Religous Tradition

Family/Children/Reproduction, Gender/Women/ Sexuality, He​alth/Death, Race/Ethnicity, Theology/Liturgy

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