Farewell Lectures. Two Private and Two Public…Margaret L. Shepherd…My Conversion and Escape from the Nunnery…The Priest and the Woman in the Confessional…Does Secret Confession and Parochial Schol Education make Good American Citizens…The Political Power and Secret Influence of the Jesuits in America…An open Letter to the Roman Catholic Priests of Johnstown, Pa. From Margaret L. Shepherd. Margaret L. Shepherd.
Farewell Lectures. Two Private and Two Public…Margaret L. Shepherd…My Conversion and Escape from the Nunnery…The Priest and the Woman in the Confessional…Does Secret Confession and Parochial Schol Education make Good American Citizens…The Political Power and Secret Influence of the Jesuits in America…An open Letter to the Roman Catholic Priests of Johnstown, Pa. From Margaret L. Shepherd.

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Farewell Lectures. Two Private and Two Public…Margaret L. Shepherd…My Conversion and Escape from the Nunnery…The Priest and the Woman in the Confessional…Does Secret Confession and Parochial Schol Education make Good American Citizens…The Political Power and Secret Influence of the Jesuits in America…An open Letter to the Roman Catholic Priests of Johnstown, Pa. From Margaret L. Shepherd.

[Johnstown, Pa.?, Illustrated broadsheet, 12” x 9.875”.

A broadsheet advertising anti-Catholic lectures, along with a public challenge to Catholic Priests, by an influential “escaped nun” and possible KKK ally whose sensational lectures fuelled xenophobia and nativist politics at the turn of the 20th Century.

This advertising brochure promotes lectures to be given in Johnstown, Pennsylvania by Margaret L. Shepherd (1859–1903), who posed as an escaped nun and stirred anti-Catholic nativist furor in the U.S., Canada, and Australia during the wave of Catholic immigration in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. These talks were likely given in the years immediately preceding Shepherd’s death: the “Open Letter to the Roman Catholic Priests of Johnstown” on the reverse openly acknowledges atacks on her character and refers to the Spanish-American War: “The late war has taught Spain, Cuba, and the Philippines this lesson: To your despotism, your avarice, and your love of power and luxury, they owe the illiteracy and demoralization of their people. And what the Philippines are to-day is what you would like to bring America to, if only you had the power. Take my advice […] and, above all, try be courageous enough to become Americanized.”

The lectures themselves widen the letter’s focus on politics to play on gender-specific fears and fantasies: “My Conversion, and Escape from the Nunnery”—for ladies—was followed by “The Priest and Woman in the Confessional”—“Private to Gentlemen Only.” The first of two public talks addressed the topic of education and the making of “Good American Citizens.” It is quite possible that, like her contemporary Helen Jackson, Shepherd was affiliated with or promoted by the Ku Klux Klan, whose anti-Catholic rhetoric took up the educational cause in particular, with recruiting questions like “Wouldn’t you like to join a Protestant organization that’s trying to keep the Catholics from taking over the public school system?” (Cocoltchos, p.105). The “little schoolhouse”—a favorite Klan motif—appears in other Shepherd advertisements.

Undoubtedly inspired by Maria Monk, the first of the fake nuns, Shepherd published her popular “memoir” My Life in the Convent: Or the Marvellous Personal Experiences of Margaret L. Shepherd (Sister Magdalene Adelaide), Consecrated Penitent of the Arno’s Court Convent, Bristol, England in 1893. For the next ten years she packed lecture halls with sensational tales of convent and confessional. A New York Times article on October 29, 1900 reported the “pandemonium” caused by an attempt to shut down Shepherd’s lecture in Schenectady “on the ground that they were immoral and unfit for any one to hear”: “During the mêlée umbrellas, Bibles, hymn books, and even bonnets were waved in the air.” She also founded two anti-Catholic organizations over the course of her career: the Protestant Protective Association in Canada and the Loyal Women of American Liberty in the U.S. Although Shepherd’s nun act had already been “unmasked” in 1893 (perhaps even earlier), Catholic journals were still debunking her claims twenty years after her death, thereby solidifying her influence within “a far-reaching antebellum movement that would shape perceptions of nuns”—and fuel nativist politics—in America (Yacovazzi).

REFERENCES: Brady, M. J. A Fraud Unmasked: The Career of Mrs. Margaret L. Shepherd. “Ex-Romanist,” “Ex-Nun,” “Ex-Penitent,” and Bigamist. Her Own Confessions Attested by Most Reliable Witnesses. Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, 1893; Clark, Malcolm. “The Bigot Disclosed: 90 Years of Nativism,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 75.2 (1974): p.140; Cocoltchos, Christpher. “The Invisible Empire and the Search for the Orderly Community: The Ku Klux Klan in Anaheim, California,” in The Invisible Empire in the West: Toward a New Historical Appraisal of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, ed. Shawn Lay (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992); “Death of the Notorious Margaret L. Shepherd,” 21 March 1903, The Sacred Heart Review; “Some Fake Ex-Nuns,” 27 May, 1923, Our Sunday Visitor; “Women Score A Victory,” 29 October, 1900, The New York Times; Yacovazzi, Cassandra L. Escaped Nuns: True Womanhood and the Campaign Against Convents in Antebellum America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Item #7133

Price: $575.00

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