The chapter covers the first phase of social mobility when large numbers move from the Leylands to Chapeltown, exemplified in the opening of the splendid New Synagogue in 1932. There was insidious anti-Semitism in the barriers placed in the professions of medicine and law and it was a tribute to the determination and talent of many Jews that they were able to surmount them. The Battle of Holbeck Moor is cited as an important statement of Jewish resistance to the Fascism of Oswald Mosley. The chapter identifies the retail and other businesses which developed, including the crucially important factory of Montague Burton.
The chapter traces the development of Zionism among Leeds Jewry, taking inspiration from the work of Theodore Herzl. In many ways, Zionism acted as a unifying influence in what was often a fragmented community, particularly since support did not depend on the degree of religious orthodoxy. Zionism in Leeds received a great stimulus from the arrival of Selig Brodetsky, who became the main organiser and leader. The city also was inspired by the visits of Chaim Weizmann.
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.
The conclusion summarises the main arguments that Irish Catholic women were far from passive in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Despite an increased Church-led Catholic patriarchal culture, l ay women did what they could from 1850 to 1950 to maintain autonomy and influence their faith.
Chapter 5 investigates women’s roles in devotional places and spaces. This was an age in which Catholic officials urged that women’s roles be essentially domestic and private and when, increasingly, women’s bodies were contained and controlled in disciplined spaces, including the Catholic chapel. Still, women resisted the civilising mission of the ‘devotional revolution’ by maintaining their commitment to vernacular landscapes and traditions. They also made themselves essential to the construction and upkeep of newly built chapels and became the main congregants at the chapel-mass. By demanding a central place in religious spaces, women complicated the divide between private and public and challenged the patriarchal consensus.
Chapter 4 offers a case study of the Irish Catholic home and material culture. This chapter looks further at religious iconography and Catholic artefacts. Exploring gender and consumption, it reveals that the growing power of home-based Catholicism depended on women’s consumerism and financial management. It also examines the central roles that mothers and grandmothers played in household devotions and prayers. The ways in which Irish women shaped religious experiences for themselves and their families during several key moments, such as the rosary and the station-mass, show how lay women created and maintained Catholic households and thus ensured the future of the Catholic nation.
Most historians of Catholicism have either ignored women or focused on the ways in which the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Church curtailed Irish women’s freedoms and opportunities. The Introduction to Irish Women and the Creation of Modern Catholicism suggests a different reality, establishing lay Irish Catholic women as actors, not observers or victims. It also examines the existing literature on women and Catholicism in Irish history, a literature that is scarce and suffers from the authors’ assumptions that Catholicism disempowered women. Lastly, the Introduction explains the research that has made this book possible and assesses the records that the author examined from archives in Ireland.
Catholic memoirists and diarists from the 1850s through the late twentieth century affirmed their affection and awe for their mothers, whom they depicted as self-sacrificing and martyr-like. In recent decades, however, scholars have assigned to the Irish mother a more sinister role, indicting her for colluding with priests and thus helping to instil a repressive and damaging Catholicism in future generations. Chapter 3, ‘The Irish Catholic mother’, debunks the martyr/villain trope through a detailed analysis of Irish Catholic motherhood. It compares constructions of motherhood (both contemporary and scholarly) with mothers’ real-life experiences. Mothers’ own words, particularly evident in their letters to bishops, demonstrate that they did not always work in tandem with the Catholic clergy but frequently negotiated the authority of clerics. Women asserted their autonomy within the home and over their children even as they made use of their status as mothers to demand that priests and bishops respond to their needs and wants.
Irish Women and the Creation of Modern Catholicism is the only book-length study of lay Catholic women in modern Irish history. Focusing on the pivotal century from 1850 to 1950, it analyses the roles that middle-class, working-class, and rural poor lay women played in the evolution of Irish Catholicism and thus the creation of modern Irish identities. This project demonstrates that in an age of Church growth and renewal stretching from the aftermath of the Great Famine through the early years of the Irish Republic, lay women were essential to all aspects of Catholic devotional life, including both home-based religion and public Catholic rituals. It also reveals that women, by rejecting, negotiating, and reworking Church dictates, complicated Church and clerical authority. Irish Women and the Creation of Modern Catholicism re-evaluates the relationship between the institutional Church, the clergy, and women, positioning lay Catholic women as central actors in the making of modern Ireland. It also contests views that the increasing power of the Catholic Church caused a uniform decline in Irish women’s status after the Great Famine of the 1840s, revealing that middle-class, working-class, and rural poor lay women fought with their priests, dominated household religion, and led parish rituals, thus proving integral to the development of a modern Irish Catholic ethos and culture.
Chapter 1 analyses the construction of nineteenth- and twentieth-century lay Irish Catholic womanhood. It demonstrates that women and girls were bombarded with messages on Catholic womanhood from an early age and reveals that the Church hierarchy’s sustained and determined attempts to define the ideal woman were linked to not only the evolution of Catholicism but also to the creation of the modern Irish nation. Chapter 1 also exposes the ideal as pervasive but essentially fragile. It demonstrates that constructions of Irish womanhood sometimes were more wishful thinking than reflective of reality and, in fact, demonstrated deep-seated anxieties about the changing roles of women in the modern world. Women themselves, meanwhile, through their writings and consumerism, did much to fashion and, in some cases, contest the Catholic model of womanhood.