Catholic Nuns and the Invention of Social Work: The Sisters of the Santa Maria Institute of Cincinnati, Ohio, 1897 through the 1920s
Abstract

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.