Item# 9780312325961
Author: John J. Fialka. 384 pg. PB.

In the 1800s, nuns moved west with the frontier, building hospitals and schools in immigrant communities. They provided aid during the Chicago fire, cared for orphans and prostitutes during the California Gold Rush, and brought professional nursing skills to field hospitals on both sides of the Civil War.

In the 1900s, nuns built the nation's largest private school and hospital systems, and brought the Catholic Church into the Civil Rights movement. As their numbers began to decline in the 1970s, many sisters were forced to take professional jobs as lawyers, probation workers, and hospital executives because their salaries were needed to support older nuns, many of whom lacked a pension system. Currently there are about 65,000 sisters in America, down from 204,000 in 1968. Their median age is sixty-nine.

Nuns became the nation's first cadre of independent, professional women. Some nursed, some taught, and many created and managed new charitable organizations, including large hospitals and colleges. Sweeping in its scope and insight, Sisters reveals the spiritual wealth that these women invested in America.

"Fialka recovers . . . those thrilling days of yesteryear when flocks of sisters, many of them, like the men who laid the intercontinental railroad tracks, Irish immigrants, pushed beyond the settled boundaries of the 19th-century America to aid in the civilizing of a continent . . . These earlier nuns were mobile, risk-taking, entrepreneurial women who eventually established the largest private hospital network in the nation and the most extensive private school system in the world." — Kenneth L. Woodward, The New York Times Book Review

"No group of Americans has had such an important impact on our nation's development as Catholic nuns. Sisters tells this history as well as any book I have ever read. It's important for our children and grandchildren to know this moving history. The story of Sisters is the history of the development of the poor and immigrant in America and how they are able to survive." — Raymond L. Flynn, former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and former mayor of Boston

John J. Fialka is a reporter with the Wall Street Journal's Washington bureau. He lives in McLean Virginia.
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