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SHSMO Speaker Elyssa Ford at the St. Joseph Museums

August 10 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Elyssa Ford will give a talk entitled “Rural Nuns and a ‘Fine Herd of Cattle’ at a Missouri Convent” at the St. Joseph Museums on August 10, 2023, at 6pm.

In the Midwest, nuns at rural convents turned to God for spiritual guidance but had to rely on themselves to survive. The reality of rural geographies and the ecclesiastical dictates from the Catholic Church created a complex set of limitations and surprising opportunities for some of these religious communities. In this talk, historian Elyssa Ford will discuss a convent in northwestern Missouri where the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have lived since the 1870s. The convent operated similarly to other rural religious establishments with the women running an orphanage and several schools, along with a dairy and farm to provide sustenance for their own use and that of their students and orphanage residents. Yet in the 1920s and 30s the convent ended their teaching efforts and turned to a more unusual source of income – a dairy herd and cattle breeding enterprise. By the 1940s these cattle were renowned across the state and stud bulls sold to international buyers. This talk will examine the unusual role of religious women in work like this, the public perception of their work, and the dairy industry’s reaction to them when they made the abrupt decision to sell their cattle herd in 1963.

Elyssa Ford is an associate professor of history at Northwest Missouri State University, and her research centers on memory and identity, women’s history, and public history education. Ford’s first book Rodeo as Refuge, Rodeo as Rebellion examined gender, race, and identity in rodeo and her second book project is on gay rodeo. She has published on Midwestern and Missouri history topics for the Missouri Historical Review and National Park Service. Her work on public history pedagogy examines academic-community partnerships, the value of local history for student engagement, and the potential and problems that rural museums face.


August 10
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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3406 Frederick Ave #2913, St Joseph, MO 64506, United States
3406 Frederick Ave #2913
St Joseph, 64506
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