What’s with those bonnets the nuns wore in “Doubt”? asks The Chicago Tribune in a piece about 5 good Oscar questions. Did they get it right?

Many of the habits and headgear of Catholic nuns date back several centuries or more, but the religious garb of the Sisters of Charity of New York, portrayed in the movie, are of a more modern vintage.

The order was founded in 1809 by Elizabeth Seton, the mother of five children who went to Italy with her ailing husband. When he died in 1803, she adopted the mourning clothing of upper-class Italian widows of the time. At first, the Sisters of Charity wore their own clothing, but, by 1812, a version of Seton’s mourning dress had become the uniform habit.

Other branches of the order later changed headgear, but the sisters in New York retained the bonnet until 1968. The movie is set in 1964. Chicagoans who attended Catholic school in the 1960s were taught by nuns in more traditional habits. The Sisters of Charity have never served in the Chicago region.


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