Although Catholic women were not (and are still not) allowed to be priests, a number of nuns established new convents and schools in the 1840s and 1850s.
Mother Mary Hardy, for example, started a convent in New York in 1841 and later founded Manhattanville College.
On the West Coast in the mid-1850s, Sister Mary Baptist Russell set up a convent, a school, and later a hospital in San Francisco.
She was not, however, the first nun in California.
That honor belonged to Maria Dominica (born Concepcion Argtiello), who became known as “La Beata” (“The Blessed One”) because she helped so many poor and sick people 1852 Uncle Tom’s Cabin; it converted many readers to the anti-slavery cause.
Harriet Wilson wrote Our Nig (1859), the first known novel by an African American woman.
Among the popular fictional works for children by women were Mary Mapes Dodge’s Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates (1865) and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868-69).