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Jonathan D. Riddle, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of History

On Faculty since 2018
630.752.7005
Blanchard 211

jonathan.riddle@wheaton.edu

Jonathan D. Riddle received his B.A. in history and political science from Grove City College in 2010, his M.A. in history from Baylor University in 2013, and his Ph.D. in history at the University of Notre Dame in 2019. He studies nineteenth-century American history, focusing on the histories of religion and medicine.

University of Notre Dame
Ph.D., History, 2019

Baylor University
M.A., History, 2013

Grove City College
B.A., History and Political Science, 2010

  • Nineteenth-Century Social Reform Movements
  • History of Religion
  • History of Health and Medicine
  • US History to 1865
  • History of Christianity in North America
  • Christianity and Capitalism in US History
  • Health and Medicine in US History
  • Christianity, Health, and Medicine in US History

Riddle, Jonathan D. “All Catholics Are Spiritualists: The Boundary Work of Mary Gove Nichols and Thomas Low Nichols.” Church History 87, no. 2 (June 2018): 452–486. (link)

From the 1840s to the 1870s, the first wave of Spiritualism swept across the Atlantic world. Many social reformers looked to messages from the spiritual realm to bolster their endeavors for this-worldly improvement. The Catholic Church, sensing diabolic powers at work, condemned the movement and its attendant reforms. It therefore surprised many when, in the mid-1850s, the spirits of dead Jesuits prompted Mary Gove Nichols and Thomas Low Nichols—both prominent Spiritualists and reformers—to convert to Catholicism. While the Nicholses are best known for their reform efforts, as their conversions suggest, they also led vibrant religious lives. By charting their religious biographies and using previously neglected writings, this article demonstrates that the Nicholses abandoned neither Spiritualism nor reform upon their conversion. Rather, they argued that both séance supernaturalism and social reformation should be pursued within the Catholic Church. In this way, the Nicholses challenged the church's attempts to demarcate acceptable spirituality, intentionally crossing and blurring received religious boundaries. In doing so, they redefined what it meant to be Catholic in order to accommodate their experiences and commitments. Their story recasts the history of Spiritualism and Catholicism as a boundary contest and provides a detailed case study of the process of religious hybridization.