History of Women Religious

The Conference on the History of Women Religious (CHWR) was established in 1988 to assist historians in discovering and preserving the historical record of vowed women from the Middle Ages to the present, and to integrate their stories into the larger narratives of their times and places. Today, the CHWR includes scholars and archivists from the fields of history, religious studies, women’s studies, and sociology. Since 2012, the CHWR and its newsletter have been housed at the University of Notre Dame’s Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. Learn more about the history of the CHWR.

Sister Corita in front of her art.

Thirteenth Triennial CHWR: Lives and Archives

June 22–25, 2025 · The conference committee invites proposals for papers and panels that address the conference theme, “Lives and Archives,” from scholars in the fields of history, theology, sociology, literature, anthropology, gender studies, visual and creative arts, material culture, religious studies, and communications.

Read the call for papers

CHWR 2019 Group Image

Past Conferences

Triennial conferences began in 1989 to enhance networking and to recognize outstanding research in the field. For three decades, academics and independent scholars have gathered to share their research on vowed women—nuns and sisters—drawn from several religious traditions.

Explore past conferences

Colonial Nuns

Conference Awards

The CHWR administers three awards recognizing contributions to the field, presented during each triennial conference: the Distinguished Book Award, the Distinguished Scholar Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Read about past award recipients

Mother Theodore Guerin

Guerin Grants

The Cushwa Center offers Mother Theodore Guerin Research Travel Grants to support scholars whose research projects seek to feature Catholic women more prominently in modern history. 

Learn more and apply

Wittberg Boston College Conference

Research Resources

The CHWR maintains connections to peer organizations, research centers and initiatives, relevant archives and digital collections.

Browse select resources

HWR News and Notes first issue

News and Notes

HWR News and Notes, 1988–2011, is available online courtesy of the University of Notre Dame Archives. From fall 2011 to spring 2019, HWR News and Notes was published as a section of the Cushwa Center’s American Catholic Studies Newsletter. Additional records (1988–2010) of CHWR are held at the Notre Dame Archives, which hosts a finding aid for the material. 

Read HWR News and Notes, 1988–2011

sister of st joseph

"Why I study women religious"

The Cushwa Center's American Catholic Studies Newsletter has frequently featured short essays by scholars studying women religious, describing how they entered the field and why they continue to feel drawn by it.

Read their testimonies