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How Nuns Shaped Healthcare in the U.S.: 5 Impressive Facts You Probably Didn’t Know


Between bathrooms and gorillas, thankfully, other news was happening last month that may just make the history books.  One of those less talked about events was that the Supreme Court of the United States made a unanimous decision in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

This case challenged Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate from religiously affiliated non-profit groups, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, who object to having to provide “abortifacients and contraceptives” to their employees.

In the words of Mother Loraine Marie Maguire (the mother provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor): “…the Supreme Court protected us from the mandate’s takeover of our health plan.”

The fact that a group of nuns went all the way to the Supreme Court of the U.S. over an issue involving health care is extremely interesting to me. As a graduate student pursuing a Master’s in History, I specifically researched Catholic Nuns and their influence on healthcare and nursing education. I learned that so much in our healthcare system we owe to nuns!

Here are the facts I found most impressive:

1) Have been called the first feminists

Nuns in 19th century America often made decisions in business without ever consulting a man. In a culture and country where most women followed the orders of a father or husband, these women were planning, building and even providing employment without the lead of a man.

By 1906, over eight hundred hospitals and ten thousand schools, colleges and universities were founded by Catholic nuns.

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