Kristine Ashton Gunnell completed her Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate University in 2010, and she specializes in Women and Gender in the American West. She also received an M.A. in History from the University of Michigan in 2001, and a B.A. from Brigham Young University in 1999. She served as visiting faculty at Claremont McKenna College in 2010, teaching U.S. History and the History of the American West. She attended the NHPRC’s Editing Institute in 2005, and worked on the Florence Kelley Letters Project, co-edited by Kathryn Kish Sklar and Beverly Palmer, between 2003 and 2006.
Gunnell completed her first book, Daughters of Charity: Women, Religious Mission, and Hospital Care in Los Angeles, 1856-1927, published by DePaul University Vincentian Studies Institute in December 2013. She also won the 2014 Arrington-Prucha Prize from the Western History Association for her article “Daughters of Charity as Cultural Intermediaries: Women, Religion, and Race in Early Twentieth-Century Los Angeles.” The book argues that Catholic sisters played a pivotal role in the development of the hospital industry in Los Angeles. The Daughters of Charity entered hospital care as a means to fulfill their religious duties to the sick poor, but as hospitals changed from social welfare institutions to medically-oriented businesses, the sisters had to adapt to the demands of surgery and science, developing new strategies to promote the vitality of their institution without relinquishing their commitment to the poor.
In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the Daughters’ services have taken various forms: education, senior housing, and healthcare services, among others. But for the Daughters and members of other organizations in the Vincentian family, meeting immediate needs is not enough. They seek to provide men, women, and children with necessary skills to maneuver around barriers to economic betterment. As more people learn and share these skills, poverty becomes less powerful, and the hope is that the system itself will eventually change.
“To Daughters of Charity, poverty is not inevitable. Men and women created the systems which result in poverty, so men and women can change them to become more responsive to the needs of all people.”
Since 1984, the Daughters of Charity Foundation has played a pivotal role in sustaining the sisters’ efforts to promote systemic change in the western United States and elsewhere across the globe. Established by Sister Teresa Piro, the foundation is a supporting organization for the Daughters of Charity Province of the West, the administrative unit which oversees the sisters’ ministries in the western United States. Through a series of historical essays and primary documents, Gunnell is exploring the foundation’s leadership, strategies, and programs which bolster the ministries’ efforts to serve those struggling in poverty, meeting short-term needs as appropriate and pursuing long-term interventions that will prevent more people from slipping into its grip. Tentatively titled, Fighting Poverty One by One: The Daughters of Charity Foundation and Systemic Change, 1984-2015, the book contributes to the history of women religious, demonstrating their contemporary leadership in the fight against poverty.
Daughters of Charity: Women, Religious Mission, and Hospital Care in Los Angeles, 1856-1927. Chicago: Vincentian Studies Institute Press at DePaul University, 2013.
“The Daughters of Charity as Cultural Intermediaries: Women, Religion, and Race in Early Twentieth-Century Los Angeles.” U.S. Catholic Historian, volume 31, number 2 (2013): 51-74
“Women’s Work: The Daughters of Charity Orphans’ Fairs and the Formation of the Los Angeles Community, 1858-1880.” Southern California Quarterly (January 2012): 373-406.
“Sisters and Smallpox: The Daughters of Charity as Advocates for the Sick Poor in Nineteenth-century Los Angeles.” Vincentian Heritage Journal, volume 30, number 2 (2011): 9-26.