Tara O'Leary | October 28, 2017
A significant but largely inaccessible survey of more than 130,000 women religious in the late 1960s is now available to scholars around the world, thanks to a digital preservation effort by the University of Notre Dame Archives and Hesburgh Libraries.
University archivists, librarians, subject experts and digital preservation specialists collaborated to migrate The Conference of Major Superiors of Women (CMSW) Sisters’ Survey of 1967 to a digital format that researchers can access online.
The Conference of Major Superiors of Women Sisters’ Survey of 1967
Known as the “Sisters’ Survey,” the dataset was originally generated and maintained on computer tapes as part of a multi-part study conducted by Sister Marie Augusta Neal, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (1921-2004). The data, along with the findings and related records compiled by Sister Neal during her decades of research, came to the University of Notre Dame Archives in 1995 and 1996 as part of the Sister Neal Papers.
While Sister Neal served as director of the Research Committee for the CMSW (later renamed The Leadership Conference of Women Religious), she began a study of the lives and attitudes of women religious in light of the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council. In 1967, she directed a survey of all members of congregations of women religious. It included 649 questions that were sent to nearly 400 congregations and over 130,000 individual sisters. The Sisters’ Survey holds the coded responses to this survey.
"The University of Notre Dame Archives and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious have long worked together to document and preserve the history of women religious in America,” said Charles Lamb, senior archivist with University Archives. “The release of the Sisters’ Survey of 1967, the pioneering work of Sister Neal, is the latest step in this process. The Archives is honored to have preserved this important digital resource through the decades and proud that Sister Neal’s work will now be openly accessible to a new generation of scholars."