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Stephen Gross

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This paper examines two inter-related historical problems -- the impact of the market revolution in nineteenth-century American and the disruptive impact of immigration on community life -- by chronicling the construction of a votive chapel in the heavily German-Catholic Stearns County, Minnesota. The chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was ostensibly built to secure divine relief from a plague of Rocky Mountain locusts that was devastating the area. At the same time, the chapel and the rituals surrounding its construction spoke to other community needs and functioned in diverse ways to address other community problems. For one, the shrine spoke directly to the condition of women, who had experiences a deterioration in status as a product of migration, and modeled better treatment while simultaneously explaining the cause and meaning of their suffering. The religious procession that accompanied the chapel construction also reaffirmed traditional pre-capitalist values nad helped guide these German Catholic settlers in their engagement with new, distant commodity markets.

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