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Escaped NunsTrue Womanhood and the Campaign Against Convents in Antebellum America$
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Cassandra L. Yacovazzi

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190881009

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190881009.001.0001

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An Escaped Nun

An Escaped Nun

Maria Monk and Her Awful Disclosures

(p.1) 1 An Escaped Nun
Escaped Nuns

Cassandra L. Yacovazzi

Oxford University Press

The publication of Awful Disclosures of the Hotel Dieu by Maria Monk captivated hundreds of thousands of Americans when it appeared in 1836. The runaway nun’s allegations against the convent “inmates,” including rape, torture, murder, and infanticide, prompted demands to outlaw convents in the United States. Testimonies and convent investigations held public interest. Despite the discovery that Monk was a former prostitute and not a nun, Awful Disclosures continued to sell well, inspiring a host of spin-offs. Monk herself fell into a life of poverty and crime before dying at the young age of thirty-two alone in prison. She never profited from the book that bore her name, but she helped launch a campaign that permeated the country for the next three decades. This chapter traces the rise and fall of Maria Monk, the controversy of her book, and the culture in which these events unfolded.

Keywords:   Maria Monk, Awful Disclosures, Protestant Vindicator, Downfall of Babylon, sensationalism

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