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American West, Catholic nuns, history, hospitals, Mormon women, nursing



  1. Marshall, Elaine Sorensen RN, PhD
  2. Wall, Barbra Mann RN, MS


Modern historical research of women and nursing has largely neglected the role of religious groups, particularly in the American frontier. The image of women at the end of the 19th century was one of submission to male authority and confinement to the domestic sphere. However, in the pluralistic West, a variety of organized religious women built and administered hospitals, initiated professional nursing, and provided effective health care services. This article compares cases of Catholic nuns and Mormon women as exemplars in a conceptual context of religious devotion, gender roles, and autonomy among women's religious organizations at the dawn of the 20th century.