Date of Award

Fall 2009

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jablonsky, Thomas

Second Advisor

Avella, Steven

Third Advisor

Carey, Patrick


This study analyzes a portion of Milwaukee's history through the lens of Catholic history. Its focus is the role of the Milwaukee Catholic Church as an urbanizing force, within the framework of urban history. The backdrop to this narrative is Milwaukee's period of heavy industrialization. I operate under the thesis that a reciprocal relationship existed between industrial Milwaukee and the Catholic Church through which both institutions were affected. The urban-industrial environment, especially in new industrial suburbs, was forged through this unique relationship. This study will examine the relationship between the Church and Milwaukee's industrialists, ethnicity in the industrial era, the interaction between the Church and urban politics, the role of the Church in urbanization, and the Church's role as an agency of social welfare, regardless of creed, in an era when state sponsored programs were non-existent.

This study is written under the proposition that religion in an urban context must be portrayed as a player in its own right, acting upon and redefining the industrial community in its vicinity. Historically, urban churches actively shaped the industrial community around them. Likewise, the urban industrial community acted upon the church. When retelling urban history, it is necessary to take into account the central role played by church and religion. Although most previous urban and labor histories have ignored religion, this study is not the first to suggest a complex relationship between urban and religious histories. In the late 1990s, the noted urban historian Kathleen Conzen issued a call to urban and labor historians not to overlook the role of religion in their histories. Professor Conzen asserted correctly that "American urban history has accepted an implicit secularization thesis . . . why religion has had such power, what the religious impulse has really meant to the lives of urban dwellers or the corporate development of the city, or what urbanization has meant for religion - these themes remain outside the purview of the field." Conzen's call for a greater dialogue between the two sub-fields has gone mostly unheeded by urban historians.



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