1920’s Catholic Women



Colleen Moore (born Kathleen Morrison) popularized the bob haircut of the 1920s. She was one of the most famous actresses of the silent film era. She was born into an Irish Catholic family. 


I would like to focus on Catholic woman, primarily in the 1920s. I am leaning toward Chicago as a focused location, but the location is still up in the air and may not be centralized to one city or state. However, to explore the newer Catholic women, an urban setting would prove essential. A city life provided more public opportunities than a rural life. Although 1920 brought the 19th Amendment, the political power of women quickly decreased when voting patterns (and lack thereof) emerged. By the mid-1920s, women were not voting as a unified bloc, and men politicians put women on the back burner again. 

By the late 1920s, women focused more on their social and public freedom and opinions— the famous “flapper” emerges. However, the cosmopolitan woman had to balance their societal expectations with familial and religious expectations. My research will focus on the Catholic women who drifted from the Church in preference of the emerging lifestyles of the ‘20s. With this in mind, I hope to answer these five questions throughout my research which would quench my own curiosity and lead my final project to its end. 

  1. What factors influenced women to drift from the Church?
  2.  How did the Church respond to threats of women drifting from their religious affiliation?
  3. How stark was the generational gap of Catholic women in the 1920s in Chicago (or other locations)? Did generational gaps influence the response to changes in the cultural landscape of the country?
  4. Did drifting Catholic women convert to another sect of Christianity or another religion, or did they became relatively secular?
  5. On the other hand, why do these women stay in Catholicism when faced with restraints and intrusions into their personal and social livelihood?
  6. And, possibly a little farfetched, and hard to answer, but– Is the Church’s futile attempts to continue their control over women in connection to the Church’s failed attempts to dominate American culture and politics when against Protestants and anti-Catholic movements?

In a general sense, why does the Church want to keep the same “ideals of Christian womanhood” without adapting to new opportunities and views of women by the general established society?

The research I have already completed starts answering some of my questions. However, I still plan on looking more into online databases and Loyola libraries. I also have made notes of primary sources to begin checking—including studies conducted in the 1920s, and newsletters of the NCCW, a Catholic women’s group of the time. I would also like to look into the newspaper databases to find local responses. Unfortunately, Mundelein College did not open until 1930, but Loyola News has some articles throughout the 1920s. Hopefully, Loyola students would help provide a younger, Catholic response to cultural changes. However, I have to keep in mind that the Loyola articles may not have any woman’s influence over what was reported in the 1920s. Overall, I am excited to explore Catholic women’s struggles and experiences in 1920s America and Chicago. 


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