A Tribute to Sister Ethel

I have been meaning to write this post for some time. My paternal half of the family is Jewish in tradition, culture, and religion. My mother's side is a mix of a number of different Christian faiths. There were a couple of pastors in the 1800s and I believe that there is somewhere a working reverend today.

But I think that there has been only one nun - Sister Ethel Mary Tinnemann. And she was quite a person. A graduate of the University of California in the late 1930s, she received her doctorate in modern European history in 1960 - also from UC Berkeley - a university that I attended during the very interesting and turbulent times of 1966 and 1967 - but that's an entirely different story.

Sister Ethel took her vows in 1943 and was a professor at Holy Names University from 1960 through 1997. She was an avid registrar of voters - signing up thousands of new voters in Oakland's toughest neighborhoods. That success enabled her to be inducted as a member of the California Voter's Hall of Fame in 1999.

I only was able to communicate with her but just once - a letter that I wrote to her in 2004 while doing research on my great grandmother, who was the sister of Ethel's grandmother - which makes us second cousins once removed. She did write me back once but unfortunately that was the only communication that we had. Sister Ethel passed in 2008 after living and serving for over 91 years.

But the thing that ties this story together with all of my family is that Sister Ethel lectured and wrote of the Catholic Church's timidity during the Nazi extermination of the Jews (of those who were killed in concentration camps - at least three are documented ancestors of mine). Her much cited articles appeared in the scholarly journals Western Political Quarterly and the Holocaust Studies Annual.

So a much deserved - but unfortunately late tribute to Sister Ethel - another of my relatives that I would loved to have met.

Below are two pictures of her - one later in life and one as a UC Berkeley student in the 1930s (where she was a tennis champ in her Junior year).

(Click to enlarge)

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