children even as they made use of their
maternal status to demand that priests and bishops respond to their
needs and wants.
As Irishculture increasingly identified women with the home and the
private sphere, as Catholic devotions gained favour throughout Ireland,
and as household prayers increased in popularity in the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries, Irish women welcomed their new role as
guardian of religion in the home. How this worked in practice, though,
remains obscure. Chapter Four, ‘The holy household’, offers a case
study of the Irish Catholic
Virgin Mary’ that fundamentally was designed to prepare them for ‘a
life of Christian service to others’, and specifically for Catholic
wifehood and motherhood.55 In convent schools, education privileged
‘the embourgeoisement of Irishculture with missionary conviction’,
focusing on ‘ladylike modesty and refinement’ as well as ‘inculcating
middle-class values of female propriety in young girls’.56 Still, however,
through education and the influence of their nuns, who served as role
models, some girls learned the confidence that they would later use to
Mary and Christ.
Irishculture from 1850 to 1950 consistently articulated that women
were central actors in the home, maintaining that the home, as a religious space, was the domain of the bean an tí (woman of the house).
In the post-famine decades, however, as the rhetoric of idealised
the holy household
Catholic womanhood increased, so too did expectations for women in
the domestic sphere. And by the early twentieth century, as print and
material culture exploded and cities and suburbs grew, women’s
responsibilities in the home intertwined with purchasing
Ireland: A Century of Change (Belfast:
The Blackstaff Press, 2003), p. 30.
31 Cork Examiner, 22 November 1922, cited in Louise Ryan, Gender,
Identity, and the Irish Press, 1922–1937: Embodying the Nation
(Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2002), pp. 151–2.
32 Gerardine Meaney, ‘Sex and nation: Women in Irishculture and politics’, in A Dozen Lips, ed. Ailbhe Smyth (Dublin: Attic Press, 1994),
p. 191. See also Gerardine Meaney, Gender, Ireland, and Cultural
Change: Race, Sex, and Nation (New York, NY: Routledge, 2010), p. 3.
33 Lawrence J. McCaffrey, ‘Irish
the resulting community the ‘chapel-village’.85
By creating a new religious landscape based on the chapel, the Irish
hierarchy not only reclaimed space; it also defined the new civilising
agenda of the Church. The spatial elements of the ‘devotional revolution’ had a clear impact on Irish Catholic women’s lives; indeed, the
ordering of chapel space resembled the regulation of the female body
in traditional Irishculture. At times, certain women were banned from
religious occasions or mass on Sunday. In her nineties, Peig Minihane
of Kerry remembered of her childhood