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Though this country was founded in part by European religious communities rebelling against an ornate and hierarchical Catholic faith to which they had been forced to adhere, this trunk reminds us of other Catholics adhering to a simpler monastic life. Isolated from their roots, many gave themselves over to the priesthood, meditation, and social work in a communitarian environment. This plain trunk is a pine chest painted blue, with iron fittings suggestive of New England Shaker furnishings. In fact it belonged to the Italian parents of a Dominican Sister who joined the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament in Oullins, France. In America, she and another woman founded the first Dominican monastery in 1880 in the United States, the Monastery of Saint Dominic in Newark, New Jersey. This trunk is one of a several items received from the monastery, all demonstrating a simplicity of lifestyle, devoid of ornamentation.
The Dominican nuns were founded by Saint Dominic in 1207, just prior to his foundation of the Order of Friars Preachers. It was his wish that the nuns should share in the preaching mission of the friars. They participate in the preaching of the Word by living their contemplative vocation and studying the Word of God. Today, Dominican nuns follow that same path in many countries throughout the world. The two American women who founded the Newark monastery in 1880 (and subsequently other Dominican monasteries across the United States), demonstrated an independence that also corresponded with the widening general push for increased autonomy and voice by American women in the same era.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
ca 1880
Monastery of St. Dominic
place made
Physical Description
wood, pine (overall material)
paint, oil (overall material)
iron (overall material)
overall: 60 cm x 96 cm x 56 cm; 23 5/8 in x 37 13/16 in x 22 1/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Roman Catholicism
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Religion
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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