Women and Catholicism in the U.S.

Next Session: Jun 14, 2021


Unit 1: Introduction

  • This unit will discuss the invisibility of Catholic women in history, and introduce strategies for their integration into historical narratives of American Catholicism.
  • We will also identify themes and issues that we will return to in subsequent lectures.

Unit 2: Women Religious in American Life

  • This unit will attempt to give an overview of women's religious life in America, concentrating on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While it would be impossible to convey the astonishing breadth and diversity of nuns' activities during this period, particular women and congregations will be used to illuminate themes and issues that are relevant to the broader experience.

Unit 3: Women in Family and Devotional Life

  • Shifting the focus from women in religious communities, this unit will view the experience of Catholic lay women through the twin lenses of family and devotional life.

Unit 4: Transformations in Church and Society

  • In this unit, we will explore how the twin developments--the reforms of Vatican II and broader cultural change--shaped the experience of American Catholic women in the 1960s and beyond.

Course Format

  • Created by Notre Dame Professor.
  • Five weeks in duration, with one week for orientation.
  • Typically 15-20 students in each course.
  • Lectures delivered by streaming video.
  • All lecture text available online in text format.
  • Supplemental readings are provided to encourage further exploration of topic, internet links provided for all readings.
  • Written assignments (150-200 words) required.
  • Facilitator-moderated chat sessions with students in course.

Required Texts

  • All course materials are available online in the course.

Participation Requirements

  • View or read the lecture for each unit.
  • Read assigned texts; keep notes, questions, and comments for class discussion.
  • Participate in the class discussion using the Forums area: post at least 2 comments, questions, or responses per unit.
  • Write 150-200 words in response to the assignment in each unit.
  • Participate in at least 3 scheduled chat sessions throughout the course.
  • Complete the course evaluation.

Time Expectations

3 to 5 hours per week, depending on your learning style and schedule.

Course Certificate

A certificate of completion awarding 25 contact hours will be sent upon completion of all course requirements.


Dr. Kathleen Sprows Cummings

Dr. Kathleen Sprows Cummings

Kathleen Sprows Cummings is the William W. and Anna Jean Cushwa Director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame. She is also an associate professor of American studies and history at Notre Dame.

Dr. Cummings published her first book, New Women of the Old Faith: Gender and American Catholicism in the Progressive Era, in 2009. She co-edited the 2012 volume, Catholics and the American Century: Recasting Narratives of U.S. History. Her current book project, Citizen Saints: Catholics and Canonization in America, will be published in 2017.

Dr. Cummings presently oversees the History of Women Religious, an academic organization devoted to the historical study of Catholic sisters in the United States. She often serves as a media commentator on contemporary events in the Church.

B.A. University of Scranton, 1989; M.A. University of Notre Dame, 1995; Ph.D. University of Notre Dame, 1999