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Margaret Susan Thompson

Margaret Susan Thompson

Contact Information:


313C Maxwell Hall

Margaret Susan Thompson

Associate Professor, History Department


The Modern Presidency
U.S. Women’s History
Twentieth-Century U.S. Politics Through Fiction
Moderization in American Society, 1870-1920 (graduate)  

Highest degree earned

Ph.D., 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

Research Grant Awards and Projects

Catholic Sisters in American History and Politics, the Catholic Church and Politics, Religion and Political Extremism, Women and American Religion. My principal research for now concerns the Americanization of Catholic women’s religious life (sisters and nuns), but I am also quite interested in the impact of religion upon American politics and governance.


Formal and Informal Collaboration among American Nuns in Response to Conflict with Vatican Kyriarchy.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion[1], Volume 16, No. 2 (Fall 2016), 63-82.

“Sisters and the Creation of American Catholic Identities.” In Education, Identity and Women Religious, 1800-1950, ed. Dierdre Raftery and Elizabeth Smyth (Routledge, 2016).

Adaptation and Professionalization: Challenges for Teaching Sisters in a Pluralistic Nineteenth-Century America.” Paedagogica Historica.  Special Issue on Catholic Teaching Congregations and Synthetic Configurations: Building Identity through Pedagogy and Spirituality across National Boundaries and Cultures (Vol. 49, No. 4 [2013]), 1-17.

History of Women Religious in the United States . 18-lecture series distributed by 

“Cultural Conundrum: Sisters, Ethnicity, and the Adaptation of American Catholicism." Mid-America, 74 (1992): 205-30.

In Belief and Behavior: Essays in the New Religious History, ed. Philip VanderMeer and Robert Swierenga, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1991, pp. 136-63.

"Research on 19th Century Legislatures: Present Contours and Future Directions."Legislative Studies Quarterly, May 1984; reprinted in Handbook of Legislative Research, ed. Gerhard Loewenberg, et al. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UniversityPress, 1985); also reprinted in The United States Congress in a Transitional Era,1800-1841: The Interplay of Party, Faction and Section, ed. Joel H. Silbey (Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing, Inc., 1991), Vol. I [Joel H. Silbey, co-author].

"Corruption--or Confusion? Lobbying and Congressional Government in the Early Gilded Age." Congress and the Presidency, Fall 1983; reprinted in The United States Congress in a Partisan Political Nation, 1841-1896, ed. Joel H. Silbey (Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing, Inc., 1991), Vol. III. 

The "Spider Web": Congress and Lobbying in the Age of Grant (Cornell University Press, 1985).
"Women, Feminism, and the New Religious History: Catholic Sisters as a Case Study."