How our lives changed 

Dr. Romeo
1705 2nd Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Morton Building
Highway 6
Atkinson, IL

Pathway Hospice
500 42
Rock Island, IL 61201

QC Carbide
1510 17 St
East Moline, IL 61244

Lyss Chiropractic
5500 30 Ave
Moline, IL 61201

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Litton Life Support
2734 Hickory Grove Rd
PO Box 4508
Davenport, IA 52808

Spencer Bros. Disposal
New Windsor, IL

Mane Designs
Viola, IL

Quad-Cities Graduate Studies Center
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Taylor Freezers 1885 Earhart Dr
Sandwich IL 60548

Milan Surplus
I-280 Exit 15
Milan, IL 61264

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Halligan-McCabe-DeVries Funeral Home Inc.
614 Main St
Davenport, 52803

Ward Chiropractic
1802 W Locust St
Davenport, IA 52804

Cannon Precision Manufacturing
PO Box 289
4th and Washington St
Keithsburg, IL 61442

Associated Environmental Management Services Inc
PO Box 586
1701 13 St
Viola, IL 61486

Edward Jones
1632 5th Avenue
Moline, IL 61265

Downtown Davenport Association
102 S. Harrison St.
Davenport, IA 52801

Donald J. McNeil, D.D.S.
1030 41st Street
Moline, IL 61265

Valley Dental Center
Dr. Margarida R. Laub
Route 6, Coal Valley, IL

Sylvan Learning Center
1035 Lincoln Road
Bettendorf, IA

Marching toward equality

By Lisa Hammer, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

Chuck Thomas / staff
Sister Ritamary Bradley sits in the library of her Davenport home. Sister Bradley founded the Sister Formation Conference and edited its bulletin in the 1950s, heralding it as 'by sisters, for sisters.'

Sister Ritamary Bradley of Davenport, who has been working toward equality for women since the 1950s, said the Catholic Sisters movement was in many ways more forceful than the general women's movement.

Sister Bradley, of the Sisters for Christian Community order, became active in the Sister Formation Conference in the late '50s and founded and edited the Sister Formation Bulletin, the first publication ``by sisters, for sisters in any part of the Catholic world that I know of.''

The purpose of the publication was to promote the spiritual education and professional growth and development of sisters who, she said, had been given very restrictive educations but heavy teaching responsibilities. ``Out of that grew my interest in the women's movement as a whole,'' she said.

The Sister Formation Conference grew to 11,000 subscribers in 10 years.

Sister Bradley and Sister Annette Walters were invited to speak at the organizational meeting of Women for Equality in Rock Island on Aug. 25, 1970, the day before the 50th anniversary of passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

``We would have talked about the need for women to take their own destiny into their own hands, rather than having it shaped for them by custom or by exclusively male leadership,'' Sister Bradley said.

The two sisters never were members of Women for Equality, which a year later merged with the National Organization for Women.

Until the 1960s, Catholic women couldn't study theology at a Catholic institution or university, Sister Bradley said. Higher education consisted of eight days of training every summer, but ``very little that was nourishing or maturing.''

``Sisters would often be taken right out of high school and be put into teaching people almost their own age,'' she said. ``They were not given adequate preparation, even as sisters. For their bachelor's degree, they would go summers only, on a 20-year plan, studying summers.''

To fund their college education, sisters sought grant money and fellowships, often from universities and colleges. They had to persuade bishops, school superintendents and heads of orders to give sisters time off to pursue educational and spiritual development.

``That was the hard part,'' she said. ``Since then, sisters have become probably the best-educated group of women, at least in the United States church.''

The effort also brought changes in the Catholic sisters' work. In the '50s, they were primarily teachers and nurses. Now they work a variety of jobs. Sister Bradley works with lay women as a volunteer chaplain at the Rock Island County Jail.

The women's movement has changed the way Catholic sisters live and relate to other people, Sister Bradley said. ``They're much more available, and it's given them a more realistic sense of what their needs are.''

Sister Annette Walters

Sister Bradley, who taught a course on women's literature at St. Ambrose University for 20 years, has written several books -- published in the U.S. and England -- on Julian of Norwich, a contemporary of Chaucer who wrote poetry on prayers and spirituality.

For four years, Sister Bradley and a historian from Syracuse University in New York have co-owned ``Sister L,'' an Internet discussion group with 1,800 world subscribers. It covers ``history and contemporary concerns of women religious.''

One of the reasons for ``Sister L'' is that, recently, sister historians have looked over histories of their communities or orders and found them lacking, with the work of sisters passed over or credited to others.

Last year Sister Bradley was named to the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y., where a national historical park commemorates the 1848 national women's rights convention. A plaque reading ``Sister Ritamary Bradley, Wise Woman, Seer, Sister'' appears on the Wall of Fame there.

She was honored at a meeting of the History of Women Religious in Chicago last July.

Although Sister Walters died 20 years ago, just last fall the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Paul, Minn., dedicated a service to her and planted a tree with soil brought by women from various parts of the country.

Sister Bradley was invited to talk about Sister Walters leadership and their work together -- ``how far ahead she was of her time, for sisters and for women generally.''

Sister Walters used to say, ``We do what we do not for ourselves, but for those who come after.'' Sister Bradley added her own finish: ``Because we stand on the shoulders of those who went before, too.''

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.