Sources on the History of Women

Catholic Social Action and Literary Holdings |  Christianity in Native North America | 
University Archives |  Access and Services

Catholic Social Action and Literary Holdings

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives holds notable collections which document the contributions of Catholic women in promoting basic human rights, interracial justice, women's rights, and world peace, and in responding to the immediate needs of the poor. These include the records of the Institute of Women Today (IWT, 1974-ongoing), a Chicago-based ministry to women, co-founded and directed for many years by Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler; the National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN, 1969-ongoing), "a group of Sisters united to study and to speak out on issues related to human rights and social justice"; and the Women's Ordination Conference (1975-ongoing), an advocacy group for women seeking the right to pursue ordination as priests; and the personal papers of Dorothy Day (1897-1980), co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, Kathy Kelly, a prominent opponent of US policy toward Afghanistan and Iraq, and Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler (1924-2002), an outspoken advocate of the rights of women in the Church and society, who was instrumental in founding NCAN as well as the IWT. (The Dorothy Day-Catholic Worker Collection, of which Day's papers are a part, also includes the papers of other women involved in the Worker movement, and records of CW communities that serve homeless and imprisoned women.)

Also significant are the records of the Sister Formation Conference (SFC, 1952-1976), in its inception a " grassroots" movement for the renewal of congregations of women religious that anticipated and fostered the reforms associated with Vatican II; the National Sisters Vocation Conference (NSVC, 1967-1987), which promoted a " post-conciliar" conception of religious vocation; and the National Black Sisters' Conference (1968-ongoing), founded to support African-American women religious and those considering a religious vocation, and to confront racism found in society and in the Catholic Church. The SFC changed its name to the Religious Formation Conference in 1976, to reflect the addition of male formation personnel to its membership. Similarly, the NSVC merged with the National Conference of Religious Vocation Directors in 1988, becoming the National Religious Vocation Conference. Personal papers of Sr. Ritamary Bradley (1916-2000) and Sr. Annette Walters (1910-1978), concerning their involvement in the Sister Formation movement, are included in the SFC/RFC Records.

Finally, the department holds the correspondence and literary manuscripts of the Carmelite poet Jessica Powers (1905-1988), whose work has been " rediscovered" since the publication of her Selected Poetry in 1989. Her poems have been favorably compared to those of Emily Dickinson.

Christianity in Native North America

The Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Records (1848-ongoing) and more than three dozen other collections at Marquette University document the ongoing story of Christianity in Native North America. A considerable portion of these holdings pertain to Native and non-Native religious and lay women serving as administrators, teachers, nurses, catechists, and students at Catholic Indian missions and schools. Of particular interest are papers by and about Saint Katharine Drexel (1858-1955), founder and benefactor of numerous Catholic missions and schools for Native and African Americans, and founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for the Indians and Colored People. Also included are correspondence and photographs concerning Mother Mary Catherine Sacred White Buffalo (Hunkpapa, 1867-1893) and her former Congregation of American Sisters. This Native American religious community was established in the spirit of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha and served the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota.

University Archives

Marquette University was the first Jesuit institution of higher learning in America to admit women as students. Since the summer of 1909, women have been an integral part of the life of the University. The history of women as students is documented in student publications such as the Hilltop and the Marquette Tribune and in the records of various colleges, schools, and departments. In addition, the papers of numerous women's social and professional sororities date from 1922. Information about women's recreation and sports such as basketball, cross country, track, volleyball, and tennis is found in the records of the Athletic Department and Student Affairs Division, dating from the 1920s. Also represented are the files of the Association of Marquette University Women (the alumni group responsible for establishing Marquette's first real residence hall in 1938) and the Marquette University Women's Council. The department maintains photographic/general information files which include both female individuals and groups who have made important contributions to the institution.

Access and Services

Marquette provides public access through on-site research with original materials, research conducted by staff for some restricted materials, sale of copies, and interlibrary loan. For optimum service, patrons are invited to consult with the archivist before their first use of Marquette materials and thereafter as needed. All original items must be used in the department's reading room whereas most microfilm and many publications and recordings may be borrowed through interlibrary loan. To insure the immediate availability of materials and audiovisual equipment, appointments are advised for all on-site research. Restricted materials are subject to special regulations and are not available through interlibrary loan.

Services hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; evening and weekend visits may only be arranged by appointment. Photographic identification is required for access to the Raynor Memorial Libraries.


For further information contact:
Phillip M. Runkel, Archivist
Raynor Memorial Libraries
1355 W. Wisconsin Avenue
P.O. Box 3141,
Milwaukee, WI 53201-3141
(414) 288-5903; FAX (414) 288-6709