Uncommon Women, Unmarked Trails: The Courageous Journey of Catholic Missionary Sisters in Frontier Montana

January 9 2004--Books abound that tell the story of women who migrated to the American West in the nineteenth century. But very few of these histories include the experiences of Catholic nuns. Yet, it was these women who made the most significant contribution to western settlement. Sue Schrems in Uncommon Women, Unmarked Trails reveals the untold story of the women who struck out on their own in the Montana wilderness, where they built convents and schools and brought education and Catholicism to Native American children.

The Sisters of Providence and the Ursuline nuns pioneered women's missionary activities among the Flathead, Blackfoot, Crow, Cheyenne, and Gros Ventre-Assiniboine Indians. They were nineteenth-century women from America and Canada who made a conscious decision to lead a life uncommon to most women of the time. They traded marriage and family for a religious environment that offered opportunities to engage in work they believed would reward them eternally by bringing the children and the needy to God's love.

The Catholic sisters' experiences were different than most western women because the sisters did not work within the structure of normal domestic roles. Unencumbered by the responsibilities of husband, home, and family, the sisters were more independent in their affairs and could devote themselves to the accomplishment of personal and professional goals. But, the frontier environment presented challenges for all women; and, like other women, the sisters found new strengths and abilities in response to frontier life. Often, unpredicted hardships forced these uncommon women to find within themselves the courage, the endurance, and the will to continue their work, and perhaps most importantly, the humor to ease difficult situations as they journeyed down unmarked trails to realize their goals to bring Christianity and civilization to the inhabitants of the frontier West.

This 128-page book, with historic photographs, is uniquely original and includes information never published before.

Suzanne H. Schrems holds her doctorate degree in history and is the author theforthcoming book, "Whose Rocking the Cradle? Women Pioneers of Oklahoma Politics from Socialism to the KKK 1900-1930," and of numerous articles on the history of the American West.

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