What ‘The Keepers’ Gets Right About the Feminism of All-Girls Catholic School

“Gemma Hoskins? Bulldog. She’s the bulldog. Abbie Schaub is the intellectual. They’re feisty, tough women. I’ve asked both of them, ‘Don’t you guys want to become investigative journalists? Let’s have some real fun.’ And they tell me, ‘We’ll do it our way.'”

This is how award-winning investigative journalist Tom Nugent introduces his co-subjects in Netflix’s latest true-crime docuseries The Keepers. It’s a seven-part deep-dive into the 1969 murder of a young, attractive, beloved nun and schoolteacher named Catherine Cesnik and the dark Catholic Church child sex abuse ring lurking beyond it. Hoskins and Schaub are Sister Cathy’s former students, now in their 60s, and so deeply affected by their teacher that they continue investigating her death, 47 years after the Baltimore County Police Department let the case run cold.

Schaub, the shyer one, excels at research and patience when she hits a bureaucratic roadblock. Hoskins, the natural extrovert, has no trouble confronting sources and asking difficult questions.

“I’m not hitting on you,” a grizzled Hoskins assures a much younger guy she’s interviewing over a glass of Yellowtail Chardonnay. “Seriously, I’m not. Do you have much baggage?”

It’s hilarious and brassy and it reminds me at once of my assertive, fearless high school self. Nugent’s surprise at their ambition, self-efficacy, and many breaks in the case reminds me of my experience, too.

I also went to all-girls Catholic school, and I’m also frequently met with surprise when people learn that about me. I’m a queer woman who writes about sex, culture, and LGBTQ issues for the internet. I also came out the year before I entered high school, and had a pretty average dating life as a teen. I openly dated classmates, had girlfriends, and enjoyed positive formative sexual experiences on par with my straight peers. People wonder how that’s possible with what they assume was a deeply conservative, repressive, religious school environment. But the truth is, my experience…

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