in Contested identities
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The labour of women religious in the fields of education and health care and in the provision of social services was intricately linked to their missionary and professional identity. Religious activism, even if parochial, extended the boundaries of their identity and propelled many women religious into roles as administrators, educators and health care professionals. As Kathryn Gleadle observed in her work on nineteenth-century British women radicals and Unitarians, 'Evangelical notions of women's religious and moral vocation were reconciled uneasily with the notion of the female professional.' Approximately seventy per cent of the women's religious institutes located in England and Wales had education as a primary focus in the nineteenth century. Although religious education was certainly an important aspect of Catholic education, the English bishops convened at that First Provincial Synod were adamant that secular education should be 'modern' and competitive with that in non-Catholic schools.

Contested identities

Catholic women religious in nineteenth-century England and Wales


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