Catholic girlhoods
in Irish women and the creation of modern Catholicism, 1850–1950
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This chapter posits that from 1850 to 1950, Catholicism served as the major influence on Irish girls’ identity formation in the community and the family, but also that girls were integral to the creation of Ireland’s Catholic culture. Through an analysis of Irish women’s autobiographical writings and Catholic material and print culture, this chapter explores girls’ devotional experiences, such as the bishop’s visitation and First Communion. Devotional artefacts figure prominently in women’s autobiographical writings, reminding us that for girls, Catholicism was a material religion with a tangible physical presence, often lending itself to fantasy and the imagination. Chapter 2 also highlights the importance of girls’ and women’s relationships with each other. Women – nuns, grandmothers, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and particularly mothers – emerged as girls’ principal religious influences.

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