Ballots and Bibles: Ethnic Politics and the Catholic Church in Providence - Cushwa Center Studies of Catholicism in Twentieth-Century America (Paperback)Evelyn Savidge Sterne (author)
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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
Number of pages: 320
Weight: 28 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
"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 *
"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 *
"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 *