Ballots and Bibles: Ethnic Politics and the Catholic Church in Providence - Cushwa Center Studies of Catholicism in Twentieth-Century America (Hardback)
  • Ballots and Bibles: Ethnic Politics and the Catholic Church in Providence - Cushwa Center Studies of Catholicism in Twentieth-Century America (Hardback)
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Ballots and Bibles: Ethnic Politics and the Catholic Church in Providence - Cushwa Center Studies of Catholicism in Twentieth-Century America (Hardback)

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£44.00
Hardback 320 Pages / Published: 06/11/2003
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By the mid-nineteenth century, Providence, Rhode Island, an early industrial center, became a magnet for Catholic immigrants seeking jobs. The city created as a haven for Protestant dissenters was transformed by the arrival of Italian, Irish, and French-Canadian workers. By 1905, more than half of its population was Catholic-Rhode Island was the first state in the nation to have a Catholic majority. Civic leaders, for whom Protestantism was an essential component of American identity, systematically sought to exclude the city's Catholic immigrants from participation in public life, most flagrantly by restricting voting rights. Through her account of the newcomers' fight for political inclusion, Evelyn Savidge Sterne offers a fresh perspective on the nationwide struggle to define American identity at the turn of the twentieth century.In a departure from standard histories of immigrants and workers in the United States, Ballots and Bibles views religion as a critical tool for new Americans seeking to influence public affairs. In Providence, this book demonstrates, Catholics used their parishes as political organizing spaces. Here they learned to be speakers and leaders, eventually orchestrating a successful response to Rhode Island's Americanization campaigns and claiming full membership in the nation. The Catholic Church must, Sterne concludes, be considered as powerful an engine for ethnic working-class activism from the 1880s until the 1930s as the labor union or the political machine.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801441172
Number of pages: 320
Weight: 624 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 24 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

"After crafting a trans-denominational interpretation of political reform as the trajectory for the book, the author enters into a well-written narrative that offers solid historical context for the sporadic movements with their leaders that chipped away at the establishment's hold on power until the first third of the 20th century.... I would recommend this book both as a model for how to write the history of religion and also as an informed narrative about Providence from the middle of the 19th century until the New Deal.... I highly recommend this volume for reading lists where the history and development of urban ethnic groups is studied."

-- Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo, Brooklyn College * Labor History *

"Ballots and Bibles is a substantial contribution to the historical studies of Rhode Island. It is also an important study of ethnic communities, particularly of the Irish, that will serve to help enrich the understanding of Catholic ethnic communities in the United States as a whole."

-- Robert W. Hayman, The Catholic Historical Review, October 2004

"Ballots and Bibles is part of an exciting new trend among social historians to bring religion from the margins to the center of the story of working-class America. It is a fascinating look at how crucial Catholic parish life was to the shaping of politics and culture in a multicultural city. Succinctly written, it rightly pays special attention to how Catholic women negotiated what it meant to have an American identity without losing one's faith or ethnic loyalty. I highly recommend Evelyn Savidge Sterne's book to those looking for a fuller perspective on the dynamics of urban America."

-- Colleen McDannell, University of Utah

"Ballots and Bibles offers us a portrait of Providence's working people that is grounded in the lived complexity of their lives. By taking seriously their religious faith, Evelyn Sterne restores the rich context through which they in fact joined unions, created families, and engaged in political action. This insightful and sensitive book will appeal to readers with a wide range of historical interests."

-- Nick Salvatore, Maurice and Hinda Neufeld Founders Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations, Professor of American Studies, Cornell University

"Contesting a historiography in which labor and religion are often pitted against one another, Sterne ably demonstrates that in Providence, the Roman Catholic Church, from roughly 1840 to 1940, played a crucial role in 'politicizing' immigrant and ethic Americans of the working classes."

* Choice *

"Evelyn Sterne's book about immigration, labor, religion, and politics in modern Rhode Island is one of the finest examples of the new history of American Catholicism being written today by a talented generation of younger scholars. Sterne presents ethnic parishes-her reach includes all Providence's immigrant Catholic communities-as lively centers of civic education and engagement, where lay men and women worked together with their priests and nuns to create community, to define and defend their interests, and to enjoy each other's company. This is a rich and exciting study."

-- Robert A. Orsi, Warren Professor of American Religious History, Harvard Divinity School

"Sterne opens to us the rich political world made by Catholic immigrants. Her crisply written and well-organized book should be of interest to students of urban, Catholic, political, and labor history. Tocqueville was shrewd to intuit the democratic leanings of American Catholicism. Now Sterne has given us the historical evidence to bolster that hunch."

-- Mark S. Schantz, Hendrix College * American Historical Review *

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