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American Catholic Hospitals

A Century of Changing Markets and Missions

Barbra Mann Wall

Publication Year: 2011

In American Catholic Hospitals, Barbra Mann Wall chronicles changes in Catholic hospitals during the twentieth century, many of which are emblematic of trends in the American healthcare system.

Wall explores the Church's struggle to safeguard its religious values. As hospital leaders reacted to increased political, economic, and societal secularization, they extended their religious principles in the areas of universal health care and adherence to the Ethical and Religious Values in Catholic Hospitals, leading to tensions between the Church, government, and society. The book also examines the power of women--as administrators, Catholic sisters wielded significant authority--as well as the gender disparity in these institutions which came to be run, for the most part, by men. Wall also situates these critical transformations within the context of the changing Church policy during the 1960s. She undertakes unprecedented analyses of the gendered politics of post-Second Vatican Council Catholic hospitals, as well as the effect of social movements on the practice of medicine.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Critical Issues in Health and Medicine


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Title Page, Copyright

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Illustrations and Tables

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

I am indebted to the staffs of several archives for their assistance: Donna Dahl, archivist, Alexian Brothers Provincial Archives, Arlington Heights, Illinois; Carole Prietto, archivist, Daughters of Charity National Health System, St. Louis, Missouri; Kathleen Washy, archivist, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center/Mercy Hospital...


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p. xv

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1. From Sisters in Habits to Men in Suits

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pp. 1-22

The public face of Catholic authority has always been decidedly male; it is indeed ironic, then, that the overwhelming majority of Catholic hospitals in the United States were established and originally managed by women. While mission driven, these Catholic sisters, or nuns, were nevertheless skillful business managers who learned to understand...

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2. A Precarious Economic Scene

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pp. 23-54

The “economic scene was precarious,” the political scene “hyperactive,” and “the religious scene fraught with confusion and anxiety,” wrote the Providence Hospital chronicler in Seattle, Washington, on June 30, 1970, regarding the many changes that had stirred unrest among the sisters as hospital leaders.¹ Of course, this was the seventies, a decade...

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3. Religion, Gender, and the Public Representation of Catholic Hospitals

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pp. 55-72

“Experiencing the physical dimension of religion,” Colleen McDannell has noted, “helps bring about religious values, norms, behaviors, and attitudes.”¹ As Catholic hospitals partnered with non-Catholic facilities in the late twentieth century, they faced challenges in their religious identities. This was not the case in the century’s earlier decades. During that...

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4. Regardless of Color, Race, Creed, or Financial Status

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pp. 73-102

In 1955, Brother Constantine Krohn, administrator of Alexian Brothers Hospital in Chicago, explained to twenty-two Catholic hospital representatives from the Archdiocese of Chicago the Alexian Brothers’ decision to desegregate their hospital and the positive benefi ts it had brought. Integration, he noted, enabled the Alexian Brothers to fulfill more...

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5. Catholic Hospitals and the Federal Government

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pp. 103-126

Consistent with their support of racial justice, Catholic hospital leaders eventually supported the right of all to affordable health care. In 1981, with competition growing between general and investor-owned hospitals, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called for a national health insurance program.¹ But this was a change...

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6. Harassed by Strikes or Threats of Strikes

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pp. 127-153

“It seems that Oakland would not be Oakland were we not harassed by strikes or threats of strikes,” wrote the chronicler of Providence Hospital in Oakland, California, in 1979.¹ Although Catholics were increasingly influential in social justice policies, workplace issues were more problematic. Secular principles dealing with labor applied to service...

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7. Practical Solutions to Complicated Problems

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pp. 154-174

On February 4, 1999, the Wall Street Journal noted growing tenion between religious and medical practices. Its front page, quoted Reverend Gerard Magill, priest, ethicist, professor at St. Louis University, and paid consultant on policy development to the Daughters of Charity and other religious sponsors of Catholic hospitals: “This may shock you, but...

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8. S Stands for “Sister,” Not “Stupid”

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pp. 175-186

From the dawn of Catholic hospitals in America, there has existed an inherent conflict between the Church’s clearly enunciated spiritual values and the market realities with which they had to compete. Over the course of the twentieth century, Catholic hospital leaders adapted to drastic market changes and to transformations within the Church that...


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pp. 187-230


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pp. 231-238

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About the Author, Further Reading

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pp. 239-242

Barbra Mann Wall, PhD, RN, FAAN, is an associate professor of nursing and the associate director of the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her BS in nursing from the University of Texas at Austin, her MS in nursing from Texas Woman’s University, and her...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813551081
E-ISBN-10: 0813551080
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813549408

Page Count: 260
Illustrations: 11
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Critical Issues in Health and Medicine
Series Editor Byline: Edited by Janet Golden and Rima D. Apple See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 781634683
MUSE Marc Record: Download for American Catholic Hospitals

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Catholic hospitals -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Catholic hospitals -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Social change -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Social change -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Catholic hospitals -- United States -- Marketing -- History.
  • Catholic hospitals -- Social aspects -- United States -- History.
  • Nuns -- United States -- History.
  • Nursing -- Religious aspects -- History.
  • Medical care -- Religious aspects -- Catholic Church -- History.
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