Religion

Title

Religion

Subject

Religion, 2016

Description

 

          History offers anyone who is willing to learn about it a window into the past. It is a way to view cultures from the past, the way ancient civilizations functioned or the societal constraints of our more recent predecessors. Specifically, history has a lot to say about the evolution of religion over time. Even more specifically, history offers insight to how women related to or used religion in the past. During the 1800s religion shaped southern life[1]. This proves to be true in the case of Sister Hughetta Snowden, who devoted her life to the church actively during the 1870’s. The same could be said for Sister Mary Anne Guthrie, although her activity does not happen until about one hundred years later. By comparing these two outstanding women, one can draw conclusions about the way religion changes or stays the same over time.

           Sister Hughetta Snowden was born February 16th, 1848 in Nashville, Tennessee.[2]  In 1871, she joined the Sisters of St. Mary in New York City at the age of 23.[3]  In 1873, she moved to Memphis, Tennessee to expand the Sisterhood of St. Mary; however, at the same time there was a yellow fever epidemic. The Sisters worked together to help those who were ill. Later that year, they were able to start St. Mary’s School for Young Ladies.[4]

           Sister Hughetta was the nineteenth choir sister in the Community of St. Mary after she took her final vows on August 21st, 1874.[5] Many of the Sisters who came to Memphis with her lost their lives to the yellow fever of 1878. In The Christmas Invitation, an autobiography of Sister Hughetta's experiences directly after the yellow fever of 1878, there is talk of how Sister Hughetta herself was sick with the plague when her fellow Sisters lives were taken.[6] That same year, Sister Hughetta Snowden was named Sister Superior of the Southern work.[7]

           In 1881, Sister Hughetta established a summer home named “‘St. Mary’s-on-the-Mountain’”[8] in Sewanee, Tennessee. She found that missionary work was greatly needed there so she “obtained permission from the Mother Foundress to start such work, and in 1897, a training school for mountain girls was opened”.[9]  It lacked workers, causing it to be closed only two years later. Despite this setback, Sister Hughetta Snowden continued her missionary work in that area.

            Sister Hughetta retrieved workers from St. Mary’s in Memphis and re-opened the school. This time the school flourished until it completely burned down on May 3rd, 1909.[10]  Sister Snowden was very optimistic, and with the help of her friends, a stone structure is built from the ashes of the old school. This was where she continued her work until a year before she passed away.[11]

In one of Sister Hughetta's letters, she discussed the Sisters need to obtain permission to establish "a Sisters' Home" in 1888.[12] She stated that the separate house for the Sisters was basically a necessity for them to live the religious life that they were called to do. "For there were now seven Sisters at the school and to give them the retirement and privacy that their life demanded and to facilitate them in the conventual living of the true Religious Life – ever an uppermost desire – the separate house for the Sisters was demanded."[13] They did receive permission and were able to get their "Sisters' Home" for more space and privacy.

Sister Hughetta’s life speaks volumes about religion and the effects it had on society in that time period. By analyzing a more recent nun’s life, Sister Mary Anne Guthrie, comparisons can be made between the ways religion transcends over time periods. Though Sister Hughetta was a nun in the Episcopal Church and Sister Mary Anne was in the Dominican order of the Catholic Church, there are still great similarities between the two women and their impact on religion.

Sister Mary Anne Guthrie was born in 1926. She is known in Memphian history for her battle with Bellevue Baptist Church, and for being the first nun to run for congress. A Memphis native, she moved away for a short period of time, only to return to Memphis in 1968 to serve as a nurse practitioner at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. While in Memphis, she made sure to raise some hell (all jokes aside.)  

            In 1974, Sister Mary Anne was told by the bishop of her convent, (which was a part of the Dominican Order of the Catholic Church,) that she could not become a bishop herself, “[and] she might as well go to Washington.”[14] During the time, women could not hold the role as bishop in the Catholic Church, so Sister Mary Anne was encouraged to seek a political role in the secular world. She ran as a Democratic for the 8th district, opposed by four men and one woman, until one candidate dropped out of the race to support Sister Mary Anne. It was published in a newspaper on July 29, 1974, that Mark Flanagan was the man who withdrew from the race to give Sister Mary Anne a better chance of winning. He made his decision because he felt he and the Sister stood for the same things, one of which being a more ethnically-balanced Memphis. Flanagan is quoted saying, "We can't tolerate white racism and neither can we tolerate black racism." [15] The remaining candidates were Lee Whitman, Representative Harold Ford, Charles Burch and Joan Best. Sister Mary Anne was for the equality of all human beings, and felt if she won the congressional seat it would bring the government “a sense of humanity.”[16] She also thought that her being a nun would help win the race.

Sister Mary Anne thought the main problem with the government was its diminishing integrity. She also felt less money should be spent on the nation’s defense and more should be spent on the bettering of less fortunate people. One example of her selflessness was while she was running for Congress, she spoke about why she felt America needed "a national health system that would not destroy free enterprise in the medical field."[17] Upon reading the health insurance bills before Congress, the Sister said she felt none of them were properly financed. She felt the government should not be over-taxing the middle class to fund health insurance. To combat the lack of care for a health system, Sister Mary Anne proposed creating her own health bill when elected. She told those at a luncheon at Harris Methodist Church, she was prepared to fight all opposition to her health insurance plans, especially from those from the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Hospital Association (AHA).[18] With the help from neighborhood health centers, Sister Mary Anne hoped to educate people, especially the elderly, about medicines and better care for oneself. She ended her proposal with stressing the need for older voters to make a big turnout at the voting primary, stating, "We don’t need more food stamp programs, we need more income—a chance to live with dignity."[19]

Another example of the Sister Mary Anne Guthrie’s humanity is shown in her infamous battle with Bellevue Baptist Church. A large part of the debate was over the techniques in which Bellevue chose to expand their church. All the purchases made by Bellevue over the years, forced people to move away so the church could take over new lands. Another portion of the debate was deciding whether or not to deny the church its growing needs. Sister Mary Anne Guthrie criticized Bellevue’s motives and means of expansion mainly because the church was putting people out of their homes, and“. . .  she watched in frustration for years as Bellevue Baptist Church’s property acquisitions displaced residents and turned the church’s vicinity into an ‘asphalt jungle’”.[20]

One last example of Sister Mary Anne Guthrie's generosity is when she went to Lebanon, a then-war-torn country, to work at the American University of Beirut (AUB) Hospital.  She took on the intensive care-recovery room with just six other nurses, when prior to the war there were 194 available workers.  Once the war began hundreds of doctors and nurses fled the country. Rather than watching the war unravel over the news, Sister Mary Anne left her post as director of the Catholic Diocesan office of human rights, and offered up six months of her life to help the people of Lebanon. After reading newspaper articles about the conditions of the Palestinian refugee camps, Sister Mary Anne took a seventeen day Women's Interreligious Study Tour of the Middle East. She traveled into Beirut with the AUB Hospital's director, where she saw the newspapers had not told a single lie. She even volunteered to stay longer in Beirut if there was still a shortage of nurses after the war had ended.

            Throughout Sister Mary Anne Guthrie’s life, she was known for always wanting to help people who could not help themselves, and striving to make her voice heard for the greater good. She accomplished a lot of ground-breaking goals left a very impressive legacy behind—for those who can find it. After she passed, there was nothing left of her accomplishments aside from mostly newspaper archives. Only Sister Mary Anne’s brother, Milton Guthrie, would be found if one searched for information on her online. Since her brother was a more famous priest in Memphis, there is not a trace of her anywhere online. This just shows how men are considered more important for history than women even if the women leave a big impact.

Although Sister Hughetta Snowden and Sister Mary Anne Guthrie were born 78 years apart, the two still have numerous things in common with each other. First and foremost, they were both dedicated nuns who devoted their lives to helping others. For example, Sister Hughetta left behind her life in New York City to come to Memphis, where she eventually dedicated her time to helping those who fell victim to the yellow fever outbreak[21]. Sister Mary Anne also uprooted her life in the pursuit to help those around her when she decided to leave and help the sick in the needy areas of Peru[22]. Sister Mary Anne and Sister Hughetta did have integrity, but the way it transcended over the two time periods is very different.  

            Sister Hughetta’s life and the work she did within the church tended to be more traditional work. Her move to Memphis was a church order, and so were most of the things she did in the Memphis community. Although Sister Hughetta had a lasting impact on Memphis, she did not necessarily challenge the gender ideals of her time period. However, Sister Mary Anne challenged the values of not only the church but society’s values as well. When Sister Mary Anne was the first nun to run for congress, she was opposed by church members and people who believed women simply did not have a place in congress.  

            Both of these women faced the hardships of their time period, whether it be disease or restricting social standards—bravely. Sister Hughetta Snowden and Sister Mary Anne Guthrie will be remembered for both their similarities and differences. They will both continue to maintain their lasting historical impact on Memphis for decades to come.  

____________________________________________

[1] Dunn, Jeanette R., and Joe P. Dunn. "Southern Women and Religion."Southern Women at the Millennium. Melissa Walker, ed. Columbia: University of Missouri, 2003. 204-24. Print.

[2] St. Mary’s Cathedral. 1926. “Sister Hughetta Memorial.” University of Memphis Libraries. MSS 65. Box 1. Folder 13.

[3] Gerald Chaudron. 2014. Biographical information in the R.B. Snowden family papers. University of Memphis Libraries. MSS 65.

[4] St. Mary’s Cathedral. 1926. “Sister Hughetta Memorial.” University of Memphis Libraries. MSS 65. Box 1. Folder 13.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Margaret W. Jones and Susan P. Robinson. The Christmas Invitation. Memphis, TN: St. Luke's Press. 1985. 13.

[7] St. Mary’s Cathedral. 1926. “Sister Hughetta Memorial.” University of Memphis Libraries. MSS 65. Box 1. Folder 13.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Gerald Chaudron. 2014. Sister Hughetta Remininence. University of Memphis Libraries. MSS 54 - 137.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Lapham, Anita. “Memphis Woman Is First Nun To Run For Congress. Herald-Tribune, July, 1974

[15] “Flanagan Quits Race to Back Sister Guthrie.” July, 1974. MSS 475, Box 370B, Folder 3. Available at University of Memphis McWherter Library Special Collections.

[16] Clark, Michael. Sister May Start Raising Cain If Bellevue Keeps Razing Land. The Commercial  Appeal, May, 1983

[17]“Form of National Health System is Supported by Sister Guthrie.” July, 1974. MSS 475, Box 370B, Folder 3. Available at University of Memphis McWherter Library Special Collections.

[18]Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Lapham, Anita. “Memphis Woman Is First Nun To Run For Congress.” Herald-Tribune, July, 1974

[21] St. Mary’s Cathedral. 1926. “Sister Hughetta Memorial.” University of Memphis Libraries. MSS 65. Box 1. Folder 13.

[22] “Peru’s Call Answered by Sister.” August, 1983. MSS 475, Box 370B, Folder 3. Available at University of Memphis McWherter Library Special Collections.


 Bibliography

Chaudron, Gerald. 2014. R.B. Snowden Family Papers. University of Memphis Libraries. MSS 65.

Chaudron, Gerald. 2014. Sister Hughetta Snowden Reminiscence. University of Memphis Libraries. MSS 54 – 137.

Clark, Michael. Sister May Start Raising Cain If Bellevue Keeps Razing Land. The Commercial Appeal, May, 1983.

Dunn, Jeanette R., and Joe P. Dunn. "Southern Women and Religion."Southern Women at the Millennium. Melissa Walker, ed. Columbia: University of Missouri, 2003. Print.

 “Flanagan Quits Race to Back Sister Guthrie.” July, 1974. MSS 475, Box 370B, Folder 3. Available at University of Memphis McWherter Library Special Collections.

“Form of National Health System is Supported by Sister Guthrie.” July, 1974. MSS 475, Box 370B, Folder 3. Available at University of Memphis McWherter Library Special Collections.

Jones, Margaret W., and Susan P. Robinson. The Christmas Invitation. Memphis, TN: St. Luke's Press. 1985.

Lapham, Anita. “Memphis Woman Is First Nun To Run For Congress.” Herald-Tribune, July, 1974.

 “Peru’s Call Answered by Sister.” August, 1983. MSS 475, Box 370B, Folder 3. Available at University of Memphis McWherter Library Special Collections.

St. Mary’s Cathedral. 1926. “Sister Hughetta Memorial.” University of Memphis Libraries. MSS 65. Box 1. Folder 13.

 

Creator

Reagan Andrews, Dallas Bright, and Jazmyne Mendez

Date

2016

Contributor

Reagan Andrews, Dallas Bright, Jazmyne Mendez

Rights

© 2016, Reagan Andrews; Dallas Bright; Jazmyne Mendez.

Items in the Religion Collection

In this newspaper article created by Anita Marie Lapham, Sister Mary Anne Guthrie talks about her decision to run or Congress and her past experiences as an activist and a nurse. The 8th district seat is being fought for by two women and four men.…

Sister Hughetta Memorial
Sister Hughetta Snowden passed away on February 1st, 1926. There was memorial service held in her honor. This is a pamphlet for Sister Hughetta's memorial. They used this pamphlet to highlight the parts of her life they wanted to remember at the…

Catholic Nun Seeks Nomination for Congress from 8th District
In this newspaper article created by Beth Tamke, Sister Mary Anne Guthrie speaks on why she chose to run for Congress for the 8th district. The Sister had been considering the race for two weeks prior to speaking to the newspaper. Guthrie feels as…

Bellevue Case Symbolizes Split Views
In this newspaper article found in the Commercial Appeal, Michael Clark writes about the anguish that has come about from the expansion of a church. Bellevue Baptist Church had been gradually expanding, each time taking more and more land that used…

Flanagan Quits Race to Back Sister Guthrie
In this newspaper article, the main topic is how a Democratic candidate and the president of a plywood paneling firm, Mark Flanagan, decided to stop competing for the Eighth District Congressional race so he could support Sister Mary Anne…

Form of National Health System is Supported by Sister Guthrie
In this newspaper article, Sister Mary Anne Guthrie says she wants “a national health system in America that would not destroy free enterprise” within the medical field. She told a group at a luncheon at Harris Methodist Church, she feels as…

R.B. Snowden Family Papers
This document is part of a finding key in the Special Collections at the University of Memphis. We used the biography information on Sister Hughetta Snowden to give us a little background information on the Sister. This information tells us that…

Peru's Call Answered By Sister
This is a newspaper article from an unknown publisher that is dated to be from August 5, 1983. The article details Sister Mary Anne Guthrie's decision to uproot her life and work in a needy village in Peru. In the article, it states that Sister Mary…