Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The involvement of American Catholic women in the feminist movement after 1960 is considered an anomaly. Yet, Catholic feminist activism thrived in large American cities like Chicago. This dissertation works to explain the origins, trajectory, methods, and eventual radicalization of the Catholic feminist movement in the United States. I argue that the events of the Second Vatican Council and the Sister Formation Movement (an organized effort to educate American nuns) set the stage for unprecedented reforms, brought an excitement and optimism to women religious and laywomen, and led to unintended revolutionary consequences. Nuns and laywomen were optimistic that the church could and would change further, and several national and local Catholic feminist organizations sprang up by the late seventies. These organizations agitated for women's ordination, female altar servers, a reinterpretation of dogma and practices, and a new priesthood. By the mid-eighties, I contend, the Catholic feminist movement radicalized and there was an ideological shift in Catholic feminism from a movement that worked and sought change within the institutional church, to a more radical ideology. Catholic feminists identified more with women and the idea of a universal sisterhood, rather than Catholicism.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.