The Franciscan Expansion

Beginning at the end of the 1800s, the Franciscan expansion grew immensely. Sisters were requested in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Colorado to develop various ministries for those communities. As a result, in 1884 the United States became the first Province of the Congregation with Mother Bernarda Passmann elected Provincial Mother Superior. 

The Needs of the Times

While sisters initially began both teaching in parish schools and providing nursing services for communities, the focus shifted heavily toward the medical world in the 1900s. Nursing schools were formed at St. Anthony’s Hospital (Missouri) and St. Mary’s Hospital (Wisconsin), while St. Joseph’s Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin merged with the Presbyterian College of Physicians and Surgeons, eventually forming the St. Joseph’s School of Nursing. 

Building a Legacy

Amidst the struggles of poverty, begging for alms, and loss, the Franciscan Sisters continued to cement their legacy in the medical community. In 1913 Sister Regina Reigling was the first Franciscan sister to become a registered nurse; in 1935, Sister Berenice Beck became the first woman religious in the US to earn a doctorate. At St. Joseph’s, Sister Pulcharia Wuellner developed one of Wisconsin’s first premature baby nurseries, as well as one of the first ever breast milk banks. She also helped many premature babies survive by creating a canvas-covered portable incubator. 

Other Progress Throughout America

Known as the “World’s Columbian Exposition,” the Chicago World’s Fair ran from May 1 through October 30, 1893, hosting 46 countries and accommodating 27.3 million visitors.

The fair spanned nearly 690 acres, with around 600 acres of landscape architecture still remaining to this day in Chicago’s Jackson Park.

Food safety practices changed in the meat processing industry when “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair and other such were works caught the public’s attention.

The response was so strong that Congress passed both the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act on June 30, 1906.

During the 1920s, the United States saw growing prosperity throughout cities and towns as many Americans owned telephones, radios, and automobiles. Women began shortening their hair to the “bob” style and men’s beards began to go out of fashion. Prohibition – the Eighteenth Amendment banning alcohol – was passed in 1920 and largely ignored by the populace. In 1933 the ban was lifted and it remains the only amendment to ever be abolished.

The Great Depression spanned from 1929 -1933. During this difficult period in US history, 11,000 banks failed, $1 billion in bank deposits were lost, 300,00- companies went out of business, and around 200,000 people migrated from the midwestern “Dust Bowl” to California.

By 1933, 1 in 4 adults were jobless, making the unemployment rate 25%, up from 2% in 1929 right before the stock market crash.