In 1897 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sisters of Charity Justina Segale and Blandina Segale founded the Santa Maria Institute, which resembled social settlements non-Catholic women established. Blending ethnic and religious traditions with skills obtained as members of a Catholic religious order, the sisters innovated cooperation with secular philanthropies. Although nuns have received little attention as leaders in the development of social welfare, Justina and Blandina invented a role for themselves in social work, shaping aid to the poor, especially women. But their integration into the new social welfare bureaucracy, like that of non-Catholic laywomen, came at the cost of female autonomy.


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