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Catholic Sisters in the Hospital Marketplace: THE GENESIS Went on board of hospital boat‘Red Rover’ for the first time with a message to our captain. Saw some of our wounded and sick. All seemed to be doing well. Found that some ‘Sisters of Charity’ were stationed on the boat and all the patients spoke very high of their patience and self-denial.1 John Gordon Morrison July 20, 1862 In 1862, John Gordon Morrison, an Irish immigrant serving with the Thirtieth New York Volunteer Infantry, had been assigned to the USS Carondelet in the western theater of the war when, following an engagement with the Confederate ship Arkansas on the Mississippi River, he “put the last shot in her.” Several of the sick and wounded from that battle were taken to the USS Red Rover, the navy’s first hospital ship. After his visit to the ship, Morrison recorded the above note in his diary. The nuns he encountered actually were the Sisters of the Holy Cross, and they were among over five hundred Roman Catholic nuns from twenty-one different religious communities who served as nurses during the Civil War2 (see fig. 1.1). Historically, Catholic sister-nurses have had a mission to care for the sick, the injured, the aged, and the dying. In the competition for hospital 13 1 Wall_CH1_2nd.qxd 4/11/2005 2:48 PM Page 13 services in the United States, they were around from the start. They adopted an economically based model that was established upon finding and servicing markets of consumers. One way of understanding their entrepreneurial roles, then, is that they went where Catholics and potential Catholics congregated and provided services for these specific groups. Social and Medical Needs and the Hospital Marketplace New medical markets developed in the nineteenth century as immigration brought diverse cultures and religions that crowded the East, Midwest, and West. “Push” factors in Europe such as famine and religious persecution and “pull” factors in the United States such as available jobs and land increased the number of immigrants and more than doubled the total number of Catholics by 1860. Between 1820 and 1840, over 260,000 Irish 14 Chapter 1 FIGURE 1.1 “THE SISTER,” Harper’s Magazine sketch of a Sister of the Holy Cross on board the Red Rover, May 9, 1863, 300. (Courtesy Sisters of the Holy Cross Archives, Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, IN) Wall_CH1_2nd.qxd 4/11/2005 2:48 PM Page 14 came to the United States. Fueled by the Great Famine that struck Ireland in 1846 to 1851, which resulted in the deaths of nearly two million people, over one million Irish left their country. Germans were the other Catholic immigrant group that settled in the United States before 1860, numbering approximately 1.5 million people. Even larger increases in immigration occurred after 1890 when other groups emigrated from southern and eastern Europe.3 Medical markets also increased in response to the need for services by people congregating in urban, mining, and railroad centers who were detached from traditional family-based medical care.These problems intensified in the Midwest, Texas, and Utah as railway and mining centers increasingly attracted single, primarily immigrant, men who had nowhere to turn when they became ill except to a hospital.4 Catholic leaders worried over losing immigrants to rival social and religious enticements. Urbanization and industrialization had generated labor unrest and a breakdown of traditional sources of moral authority, especially the authority of the family and the Catholic Church. The diverse cultures and religions of the Midwest and Trans-Mississippi West challenged the church’s authority as well. Leaders sensed that significant Catholic populations existed with inadequate spiritual institutions. To tap this growing group, the church created separate hospitals, orphanages, and schools and defined them along religious lines.5 Nuns staffed these facilities in which they could preserve the Catholic identity.They focused much of their attention on social welfare for their own; that is, for working-class immigrants. As a result, nuns had a large role to play in the shift of medical practice from homes to hospitals that occurred in the late nineteenth century. As sisters expanded their health care in the wake of immigration, most saw themselves as missionaries in a country dominated by Protestantism.To carry out their work and serve more people, they had to build their communities and institutions. As a result, the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of the Holy Cross, and Sisters of Charity...


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