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Catholic Sister Nurses in Selma, Alabama, 1940–1972

Wall, Barbra Mann PhD, RN

Section Editor(s): Chinn, Peggy L. PhD, RN, FAAN

doi: 10.1097/01.ANS.0000346290.44977.1c

This study analyzes the activities of religious sister nurses as they confronted racism in the American South from 1940 to 1972. Selma was chosen as a case study because, in the 1960s, events in that southern town marked a turning point in the civil rights movement in the United States. This is a story about the workings of gender, race, religion, and nursing. The sisters' work demonstrates how an analysis of race in nursing history is incomplete without an understanding of the roles that a number of Catholic religious women took in reaching out to African Americans in the Deep South.

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia.

Corresponding Author: Barbra Mann Wall, PhD, RN, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, 418 Curie Blvd, Fagui Hall # 2016, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (

The views expressed in any written publication, or other media, do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention by trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the US Government.

The author thanks Sisters Mary Paul Geck, Barbara Lum, Josepha Twomey, Catherine Teresa Martin, Barbara Lynaugh, and Mary John van Atta of the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of Rochester, New York, and Kathy Urbanic, archivist. The author also thanks the reviewers of this manuscript and acknowledges the following sources of funding: the University of Pennsylvania's University Research Foundation Grant; the Trustee Council for Penn Women Award; a Fichter Grant from the Association for the Sociology of Religion; and an H15 Grant for Historical Research by the American Association for the History of Nursing. Funding for this “Scholarly Works” project was also made possible by Grant no. 1G13 IM009691-01 from the National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, Department of Health and Human Services.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.