Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

History, MA

Committee Chair

Crothers, A. Glenn

Committee Member

Mackey, Thomas C.

Committee Member

Ryan, Susan

Author's Keywords

roman catholic; gender; slavery; war of 1812; panic of 1819; American south


This thesis analyzes the experiences of Roman Catholic women who joined the Sisters of Loretto, a community of women religious in rural Washington and Nelson Counties, Kentucky, between the 1790s and 1826. It argues that the Sisters of Loretto used faith to interpret and respond to unfolding events in the early nation. The women sought to combat moral slippage and restore providential favor in the face of local Catholic institutional instability, global Protestant evangelical movements, war and economic crisis, and a tuberculosis outbreak. The Lorettines faced financial, social, and cultural pressures—including an economic depression, a culture that celebrated family formation and reproduction, and race-based slavery—that shaped how they executed their benevolent and educational missions over time. The Sisters pursued benevolent and educational missions to serve God and uphold the economic, racial, and gendered social order of the Border South.