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Beyond the Book

448 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 25 halftones, notes, bibl., index

ISBN  978-1-4696-2205-7
Published: February 2015

Across God's Frontiers

Catholic Sisters in the American West, 1850-1920

By Anne M. Butler

Awards & Distinctions

Distinguished Book Award, Conference for the History of American Religious

2013 Armitage-Jameson Prize, Coalition for Western Women's History

Roman Catholic sisters first traveled to the American West as providers of social services, education, and medical assistance. In Across God's Frontiers, Anne M. Butler traces the ways in which sisters challenged and reconfigured contemporary ideas about women, work, religion, and the West; moreover, she demonstrates how religious life became a vehicle for increasing women's agency and power.

Moving to the West introduced significant changes for these women, including public employment and thoroughly unconventional monastic lives. As nuns and sisters adjusted to new circumstances and immersed themselves in rugged environments, Butler argues, the West shaped them; and through their labors and charities, the sisters in turn shaped the West. These female religious pioneers built institutions, brokered relationships between Indigenous peoples and encroaching settlers, and undertook varied occupations, often without organized funding or direct support from the church hierarchy. A comprehensive history of Roman Catholic nuns and sisters in the American West, Across God's Frontiers reveals Catholic sisters as dynamic and creative architects of civic and religious institutions in western communities.

About the Author

Anne M. Butler (1938-2014) was Trustee Professor Emerita at Utah State University and past editor of the Western Historical Quarterly.


"Highly recommended. All levels/libraries."

“Butler traces how sisters challenged and reconfigured contemporary ideas about women, work, religion, and the West.”
--American Catholic Studies Newsletter

"A celebration of the intrepid spirit of sisters who established ministries of the frontier."

"Across God's Frontiers livens up with its tales of courageous women and its forthright analysis of gender politics."
--Tucson Weekly

“Butler has called attention to yet another strand of the West’s complex mix of peoples and cultures.”

“Anyone interested in the history of American religion, Catholicism, women, education, race relations or cultural development should read this book.”
--America Magazine

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