This paper will examine the fight to desegregate white sisterhoods in the Chicago archdiocese. Between 1940 and 1970, the numbers of white sisters teaching African-American youth in Chicago dramatically increased as a result of the Great Migration. As a consequence, the number of requests from African-American women and girls seeking to enter white sisterhoods in Chicago skyrocketed. In the case of the Religious Sisters of Mercy, one of the largest white sisterhoods working in the African-American community, archival records and oral history indicate that the order never accepted a black candidate from Chicago despite receiving scores of informal and formal requests from white priests and African-American candidates under their spiritual direction. Initially, black women and girls were regularly forced to leave the state to enter white orders. Moreover, most pioneering black sisters in white Chicago congregations did not remain in their orders. This paper will explore on the extraordinary lengths that white general councils and superiors went to keep black women and girls out of their ranks as well as the diverse strategies employed by white priests and African-American candidates to break down these barriers.
See more of: AHA Sessions