Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. James Cousins

Second Advisor

Dr. Ilana Nash

Third Advisor

Dr. Ángela Pérez-Villa


Women’s education, Catholicism, Civil War, Separation of Spheres, Midwest

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This research builds upon studies that explore Catholic women’s and girls’ educational institutions in the nineteenth century. This case study focuses on one girls’ academy, Saint Mary’s Academy, precursor to Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, founded by the Congregation of the Holy Cross in 1844. The research provided here analyzes the gendered language utilized by school leaders in the academy’s public catalogues during the decade of the Civil War, from 1860 through 1871. The language in these catalogues subtly changed over the course of the decade, reflecting changing white, middle-class gender norms surrounding women’s work and education. Leaders of the school used the language of spheres and domesticity in developing ways over the course of the decade to both defend and expand their educational offerings for their pupils.