O'Shea, Kathleen and Sarah Alida Conde O'Shea Papers

Span Dates: 1893-2013
Bulk Dates:
Volume: 10.542 linear feet (18 containers)


Kathleen's papers include documents and memorabilia from O'Shea's childhood, including her education in becoming a nun; correspondence with close friends; and photographs of O'Shea and friends; and a small amount of materials pertaining to lesbian former nuns. Photographs of events feature such luminaries as Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Angela Davis, bell hooks, Sister Helen Prejean, and David Kaczynski (brother of infamous "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski). Also included is research related to O'Shea's writings on women on death row with files on sixty-five women prisoners, including correspondence from some, and video tapes about women in prison, including several about Aileen Wuornos. O'Shea has provided extensive annotation, explanatory notes, and biographical information, which add to the collection's richness and depth. Sarah's papers consist of a full run of diaries (1916-1993) chronicling Sarah Alida Conde O'Shea's working-class, Catholic family in Kansas, from her early adulthood until her death in 1993. Topics include daily life in Kansas, through the great Depression (including an eyewitness account of dust storm in the mid-thirties) and war times; family life; adoption and how her Catholic family dealt with her niece's illegitimate children. The collection also includes O'Shea's unpublished memoirs, photographs, memorabilia and genealogical information. In addition to her diaries, her collection includes a few files on authors about lesbian nuns.

Hist/Bio Note

Kathleen O'Shea was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in November 26, 1944. She was adopted in infancy by Sarah Alida Conde O'Shea and James O'Shea and grew up in Salina, Kansas. In eighth grade she decided to become a nun in the Catholic Church. In 1958 she became an Aspirant of the Apostolic School at Nazareth Motherhouse in Concordia, Kansas, but was sent home at the end of the year to wait until she was "more mature." In 1960, O'Shea began her Postulancy at St. Joseph's Villa in Peapack, New Jersey, graduating in 1962. She entered the Immaculate Heart Novitiate in Glen Cove, New York in August, 1961, and became a nun (Sister Mary Fidelis) in 1963. O'Shea was a nun for 30 years, after which she began work as social worker doing research on female offenders, with an emphasis on women on death row. She is the author of Female Offenders: An Annotated Bibliography (1997), Women and the Death Penalty in the United States: 1900-1998 (1999), and Women on the Row: Revelations From Both Sides of the Bars (2000), which was nominated for a Pulitzer. O'Shea is described as a lesbian on her book jacket.

Finding Aid

An online finding aid is available.


Smith College Special Collections Neilson Library, 7 Neilson Drive Northampton, Massachusetts, 01063


Catholic (Roman) | Author/editor | Clergy Activist