Collection Summary

Administrative Information

Biography of Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Arrangement of the Papers

Index Terms

Finding Aid for the Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler Papers

Finding aid prepared by Phil Runkel

Collection Summary

Creator: Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler
Title: Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler papers
Dates: 1916-1918, 1924, 1941-2002
Abstract: Papers of an outspoken advocate for the rights of women in society and the Catholic church, who was instrumental in founding the National Coalition of American Nuns and the Institute of Women Today (directing the latter from 1974 until 2000, after eight years on the staff of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice). Traxler also championed the State of Israel and the cause of Jews seeking to emigrate from the Soviet Union.
Extent: 6.4 cubic feet (21 boxes).
Language: English
Identification: MET

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

Gift of Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler, 1973. Additions received, 1973- .

Related Materials

The archives also holds the records of three organizations with which Sr. Traxler was afilliated: Institute of Women Today, National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice, and National Coalition of American Nuns.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Series Number, Box Number, Folder Number (if applicable). Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler Papers, 1916-1918, 1924, 1941-2002. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives. Marquette University.

Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on access to this collection.

Restrictions on Use

The archives staff will assist researchers in determining if copyright restrictions apply, although responsibility for copyright and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.


No further accruals expected for this collection.

Return to the Table of Contents

Biography of Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler

Margaret Ellen Traxler was born in 1925 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Raised in nearby Henderson, Minnesota, Traxler joined the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1941. She completed a bachelor's degree in English from St. Catherine's College and later received a master's degree from Notre Dame University. For 17 years Sr. Traxler taught in high schools and colleges, before dovoting herself to advocacy on behalf of the rights of women in society and the Catholic Church. Settling in Chicago, Sr. Traxler helped to found the National Coalition of American Nuns, the Institute of Women Today, Sister House, Maria's Shelter, and Casa Notre Dame. She was also co-founder of the Interreligious Conference on Soviet Jewry. In 1964 Sr. Traxler became head of the education department of the National Catholic Council for Interracial Justice and later served as the organization's executive director from 1969-1973.

An outspoken advocate for womens' rights, Sr. Traxler joined 23 other nuns in signing a controversial 1984 New York Times advertisement questioning the Catholic Church's position on abortion. The "Vatican 24" were threatened with dismissal from their congregations if they did not retract their support for the statement.

Sr. Traxler died in 2002, two years after suffering a debilitating stroke that ended her public work. She was buried in Mankato, Minnesota, in the cemetery at the motherhouse of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Return to the Table of Contents

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Included are correspondence, subject files, press clippings, and publications. There is extensive correspondence resulting from Sr. Traxler's decision to join 23 other nuns in signing an ad in the New York Times on the diversity of Catholic teaching on abortion. Notable correspondents include Ritamary Bradley, Mary Margaret Johanning, and Jessica Powers

Return to the Table of Contents

Index Terms


  • Bradley, Ritamary, 1916-
  • Johanning, Mary Margaret, 1936-
  • Powers, Jessica
  • Traxler, Margaret--Archives


  • National Interreligious Task Force on Soviet Jewry (U.S.)
  • School Sisters of Notre Dame


  • Abortion--Religious Aspects--Catholic Church
  • Church and social problems--Catholic Church
  • Feminism--Religious Aspects--Catholic Church
  • Freedom of Religion--Soviet Union
  • Monastic and religious life of women--United States
  • Monasticism and religious orders for women--United States
  • Nuns--United States
  • Women in the Catholic Church--United States

Return to the Table of Contents

Arrangement of the Papers

This collection is arranged into the following series. Each series in turn is arranged either alphabetically or chronologically.

Return to the Table of Contents

Series 1: Private Correspondence, 1953-1995, undated. 0.8 cubic feet.



1987-1995, undated

Series 1.1: Private Correspondence, by Correspondent, 1958-1994, undated. 0.5 cubic feet.

Bradley, Sr. Ritamary, 1980-1993

Gillen, Sr. Ann, 1969-1977, undated

Goldboss, Ruth, 1972-1990, undated

LeVan, Rose Gordon, 1982-1993

May, Sr. Ruth Marie, 1971-1991, undated

Powers, Jessica (Sr. Miriam), 1958-1988, undated

Thompson, Margaret Susan, 1983-1994, undated

Series 2: Writings by Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler, 1950-1992, undated. 0.3 cubic feet.


Education and Literature 1950-1969

Women, 1958-1990

Women in Prison, 1977-1988

Women Religious, 1965-ca. 1971

Book edited by Sr. Traxler

Split-Level Lives: American Nuns Speak on Race. Techny, IL: Divine Word Publications, 1967.

New Works of New Nuns.St. Louis: B. Herder, 1968.

Book Reviews, 1965-1981

Letters to the Editor and Commentaries, 1965-1992

Manuscripts, 1951-1989, undated

Series 3: Honors, 1970-1995, undated. 0.2 cubic feet.

Teresa Avila Award, College of St. Teresa (Winona, MN), 16 May 1970

Interfaith Award, Chicago Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, 8 June 1972

Honorary Degree, Bishop College (Dallas, TX), 7 May 1973

Mary Rhodes Award for Service, Sisters of Loretto, 3 August 1983

Gladys G. Shute Award, Oakton Community College (Des Plaines, IL), 26 October 1986

Honorary Degree, Augustana College (Rock Island, IL), 31 May 1987

Other Honors, 1974-1995, undated

Series 4: Speaking Engagements, 1963-1996, undated. 1.2 cubic feet.


1974-1979 (including audiocassette recordings of talks on 1975 April 9, October 12, and November 15

1980-1996, undated

Undated Manuscripts for Talks

Series 5: Subject Files, 1965-1994, undated. 2.4 cubic feet.


General Correspondence, 1971-1989

Hyde Amendment, 1977-1978

New York Times Ad, 1984-April 1985

New York Times Ad, May 1985-1990, undated

Bangladesh, 1971

Bread for the World, 1974

Byrne, Jane, Re-Election Campaign, 1982-1984

Catholic Peace Fellowship, 1971-1974

Central Intelligence Agency Investigation (Rockefeller Commission), 1975

Chicago Catholic Women, 1977-1989

Church Women United, 1969-1985

College of St. Teresa, 1970-1976

Equal Rights Amendment, 1970-1980

Fellowship of Reconciliation, 1971-1980

Fellowship of Reconciliation, Wounded Knee Task Force, 1973-1974

Israel, 1972-1991, undated

Jewish-Christian Relations, 1973-1984

Language about God Task Force (United Presbyterian Church), 1975-1979

Mary's Pence, 1987-1990

McCarthy, Eugene, Presidential Campaign, 1968

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (for Sr. Traxler), undated

National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice, 1973-1990

Oral History Memoirs (4 audiocassettes), 1973


Citizens Conference on Ending the War in Indochina (3-11 March 1971), 1970-1971

General Correspondence, 1972-1988

Set the Date Now: An Interreligious Campaign to End the War, 1970-1971

Vietnam War, General Correspondence, 1970-1974

"Women's Role in Peace Education" Conference (14-20 May 1972), 1972

Philippines, 1973-1975

Photographs, 1965-1989, undated

Proposals to Funding Agencies, 1969-19791986

School Sisters of Notre Dame, 1968-1990

Sister Formation Conference, 19721981-1986

Soviet Jewry, 1971-1987

Third World Sabbatical, 1972-1974

United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, Vancouver, British Columbia, 31 May-11 June 1976

Walters, Sr. Annette, 1976-1979


General Correspondence, 1969-1994

Women Religious, 1968-1988

World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women, Equality, Development and Peace, Copenhagen, Denmark, 14-20 July 1980

World Council of Churches Fifth General Assembly, Nairobi, Kenya, 23 November-10 December 1975 (Sr. Traxler declined invitation to serve as adviser on women's affairs because of discrimination against women in Catholic Church)

World Council of Churches Consultation of Church Women Executives, Geneva, Switzerland, 17-22 January 1977 (Sr. Traxler served as consultant on women's affairs)

Series 6: Family Papers, 1916-1918, 1924, 1941-1994, undated. 0.3 cubic feet.

Birth Certificate, 1924

Family Correspondence, 1942-1994, undated

Genealogical Records, 1969, 1980, 1991, undated

Photos, 1941-1961, undated

Press Clippings, 1956-1991, undated

Traxler, John Felix, Letters to Marie Fitzgerald, 1916-1918

Series 7: Writings about Sr. Margaret Ellen Traxler, 1941-2002. 0.2 cubic feet.

Press Clippings, 1941-2002

McClory, Robert. "The Church, Abortion, and Sister Margaret Traxler." Chicago 34 (December 1985); 199, 230-232, 247-252.

"The Anger of Sister Margaret Traxler." De Tijd, 28 March 1987, pp. 28-33

Unsworth, Tim. "Margaret Traxler, S.S.N.D.: 'We want to be a Part, not Apart.'" In Catholics on the Edge (New York: Crossroad, 1995), pp. 101-111.