Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1903-1970) Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Ross earned her undergraduate degree at Bedford College, University of London. She came to the United States in 1930 and received an M.A. from St. Louis University and a Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University. She headed the Department of Sociology at Trinity College, Washington, D.C., from the time of her arrival on its faculty in 1940 to her retirement in 1969.

Elected President of the American Catholic Sociological Society in 1943, Ross was the first woman in the United States to hold presidential office in a professional organization of sociologists, national or regional. She was unable to give a presidential address, however, because her term came in the midst of World War II when the ACSS, like many professional groups, had suspended its annual national meetings. She was a member of the ACSS Executive Council for several years and a member of the editorial board of American Catholic Sociological Review from 1940 to 1950. Ross claimed to be the only Catholic at that time with a Ph.D. from a "non-Catholic" university—mistakenly, however, because her contemporary, Franz Mueller, had a degree from a "non-Catholic" university in Germany.

While disagreeing with the concept of "Catholic sociology," she firmly insisted that there was a role for the Catholic sociologist as one able to bring a value-oriented approach to sociological research, yet without slanting empirical data. She was vocal in her objections to the prevailing intellectual climate in professional sociological organizations that proclaimed the dogma of value neutrality, looked askance at anyone who seemed value oriented, and anathematized those who confessed a religious belief system. Although her primary research was in the sociology of cooperatives, she wielded considerable influence in the early formation of the ACSS. When the society changed its focus to the sociological study of Catholicism and renamed its journal, she felt that this duplicated the work of the mainly European Société Internationale de Sociologie des Religions and the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion . In the light of this, and having attended every meeting of the ACSS (except for the 1938 organizational meeting at Loyola University), Ross decided in 1970 not to renew her membership.

Loretta M. Morris

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