Habits in the Classroom: A Court Case Regarding Catholic Sisters in New Mexico


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




In 1947, a group of New Mexicans filed a lawsuit against Catholic sisters teaching in state public schools. This dissertation takes Zellers v. Huff as its organizing narrative, and offers a historical account of sister-taught public classrooms. For decades, New Mexico’s education system was a borderland—a space hosting not only ethnic and linguistic encounter, but also the encounter of educational models. Its sisters presented a culturally cogent, if legally problematic, challenge to many American ideas about church-state separation. By bringing together Zellers’s local and national participants, this work maps disparate cultural contexts from which Americans articulated ideas about religion and education, and traces how these ideas interacted with the legal principle of separation.