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Margaret Susan Thompson

Margaret Susan Thompson

Contact Information:


313C Maxwell Hall

Margaret Susan Thompson

Associate Professor, History Department


  • 2024 Spring
    • PSC 300 Selected Topics - WhtNat'lism/RigtPop in Mod Am
    • HST 300 Selected Topics - WhtNat'lism/ Mod Am.
    • HNR 360 Topics in the Social Sciences Honors - WhtNat'lism/ Mod Am.
    • HST/WGS 349 Women in America: Civil War to Present
  • 2023 Summer
    • IDE 880 Adv Seminar/Sel Top - Sem/ST in American History
  • 2022 Fall
    • HST 715 Readings and Research in American History - Religion in Mod American Hist
    • HST 300 Selected Topics - Modern American Politics Film
    • HST/PSC 341/329 The Modern American Presidency
    • HNR 360 Topics in the Social Sciences Honors - Modern American Politics Film
  • 2022 Summer
    • IDE 880 Adv Seminar/Sel Top - Sem/ST in American History
  • 2022 Spring
    • HST 496 Distinction Thesis in History
    • PSC 300 Selected Topics - WhtNat'lism/RigtPop in Mod Am
    • HST 300 Selected Topics - WhtNat'lism/ Mod Am.
    • HNR 360 Topics in the Social Sciences Honors - WhtNat'lism/ Mod Am.
    • HST/WGS 349 Women in America: Civil War to Present

Highest degree earned

PhD with Distinction, University of Wisconsin - Madison, 1979


Margaret S. Thompson was trained as a political historian, with a focus on the nineteenth-century United States and, particularly, the Congress. Her first book, "The 'Spider Web:' Congress and Lobbying in the Age of Grant" (Cornell University Press), reflects both her scholarly and hands-on experience, the latter as American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow.

Recently, Professor Thompson’s work has focused on the history of American Catholic nuns. She has written and lectured extensively on the subject, and has an 18-lecture audio series available through Her research is from an explicitly feminist perspective, emphasizing the agency and social significance of sisters to American religious and secular history. As a result of this research, she has had the privilege of speaking internationally as well as across the U.S., and has served as a consultant to numerous documentarians and religious communities.

Her forthcoming book, "The Yoke of Grace: American Nuns and Social Change, 1809-1917," is under contract with Oxford University Press.

Areas of Expertise

Modern American history, government and politics, religion, women's history

Research Interests

U.S. politics and governance (especially modernization), women and politics, religion and politics, women and religion in U.S. history

Selected Publications

  • Book
    • Thompson, M., The "Spider Web": Congress and Lobbying in the Age of Grant. Cornell University Press, 1985.
  • Journal Articles
    • Thompson, M., "Difficult Women and Dangerous Memories: Silenced, Suppressed, and Misrepresented Founders in the History of American Religious Life." American Catholic Studies, 2023.
    • Thompson, M., "Sacraments as Weapons: Patriarchal Coercion and Engendered Power in the 19th-Century Convent." Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 2022.
    • Thompson, M., "The ‘Cult of True Womanhood’ and American Catholic Sisters: An Example of Creative Subversion." Encounters in Theory and History of Education, 2021.
    • Thompson, M., "Grace from the Rearview Mirror." Global Sisters Report (online international journal), 2021.
    • Thompson, M., "Distancing Is Not Isolation: Building Community in a Time of Physical Separation." Global Sisters Report, 2020.
    • Thompson, M., "Success' in Religious Life: What Is It?." Global Sisters Report, 2019.
    • Thompson, M., "An Outsider Studies the Insider World of Women Religious." Global Sisters Report, 2018.
  • Book Chapters
    • Thompson, M., "Concentric Circles of Sisterhood: Formal and Informal Collaboration among American Nuns in Response to Conflict with Vatican Kyriarchy." In Conflict and Collaboration: For Better or Worse. Gerard, C., Kriesberg, L. (eds.) Routledge, 2018.
    • Thompson, M., "I Came for the Sisters—and Stayed for the Sisterhood." In Visions and Vocations: The Catholic Women Speak Network. Beattie, T., Culbertson, D. (eds.) Paulist Press, 2018.
    • Thompson, M., "Introduction." In A Call To Care: The Women Who Built Catholic Healthcare in America. Catholic Health Association, 1996.
    • Thompson, M., "Introduction." In M. Pauline Grady, A.S.C., Joy in the Planting: The Life Story of Clementine (nee Barbara) Zerr, 1832-1906. , 1994.
    • Thompson, M., "The Validation of Sisterhood: Canonical Status and Liberation in the History of American Nuns." In A Leaf of the Great Tree of God: Essays in Honour of Ritamary Bradley, sfcc. King, M. H. (ed.) Peregrina Publishing Co, 1994.
    • Thompson, M., "Women, Feminism, and the New Religious History: Catholic Sisters as a Case Study." In Belief and Behavior: Essays in the New Religious History. VanderMeer, P., Swierenga, R. (eds.) Rutgers University Press, 1991.
    • Thompson, M., "Women and American Catholicism, 1789-1989." In Perspectives on the American Catholic Church. Geiger, V., Vicchio, S. (eds.) Christian Classics, 1989.
  • Book Review
  • Encyclopedia Entry
    • Thompson, M., In Encyclopedia of Southern History. Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1979.
  • Introductory Essay
    • Thompson, M., "Concentric Circles of Sisterhood." In Building Sisterhood: A Feminist History of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Monroe, Michigan. Syracuse University Press, 1997.
  • Magazine/Trade Publication
    • Thompson, M., "The New Nuns of Yesteryear." U.S.A. Today, 1989.
  • Recorded Lecture Series
  • Review Essay
    • Thompson, M., "Sisters’ History Is Women’s History: The American Context." In Journal of Women’s History. , 2014.
  • Two-part Online Lecture Series
  • Video and Text

Presentations and Events

2023 Annual Conference, History of Women Religious of Britain & Ireland (H-WRBI), "Mission, Ministry, and the Reconfiguration of Community in 19th-Century American Religious Life" (June 7, 2023 - June 9, 2023)

2022 Conference on the History of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland (H-WRBI), "Silence and Suppression: Difficult Women and Dangerous Memories of 19th-Century Religious Life" (June, 2022)

September 2021 Triennial Conference of the Archivists of Congregations of Women Religious, "The Past as Prologue: Archives and the Future of Religious Life" (September, 2021)

Conference on the History of Women Religious, St. Mary’s College, "Canonized American Sisters: How Congregations Commemorate, Preserve, and Celebrate Sainted Sisters Legacies in the 21st Century: St. Marianne Cope" (June, 2019)

History of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland (H-WRBI) Conference, "Collaboration and Conflict among Neighbors: Sisters as Colleagues and Competitors" (June, 2018)

Honors and Accolades

Research Grant, Syracuse University Senate Committee on Research (1985)

Research Grant, Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, University of Notre Dame (1984)

Research Grant, American Philosophical Society (1980)

Research Grant, National Endowment for the Humanities (1980)

Ford Foundation Graduate Fellowships (1972 - 1974)