Introduction In 1969, Abbess Mary Joseph regaled the Poor Clares of Darlington on her return from the vocations exhibition in Leeds with ‘interesting and amusing’ talks on religious life, ‘especially on how to deal with the modern girl’. The following week, Poor Clare abbess Mother Mary Paula Smallwood of Baddesley Clinton visited Darlington and also ‘entertained us with stories of the “antics” of modern postulants’. 1 The Modern Girl was a recurrent trope which featured even in religious life. Each generation laid claim to its modernity with a Modern Girl

in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age

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.

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-century Irish girls. Hyland’s narrative also raises questions about the ways in which girls experienced their Catholic childhoods, a topic understudied in both Irish women’s history and the history of Irish Catholicism. Through an analysis of women’s life-writings, including diaries, oral histories, autobiographies, and memoirs, this chapter explores the realities of growing up Catholic and female from 1850 to 1950, with a particular focus on the first half of the twentieth century. At this catholic girlhoods 59 time, religion served as the major influence in Irish girls

in Irish women and the creation of modern Catholicism, 1850–1950

late nineteenth century, Catholicism was the focus of girls’ educational lives. Religious education began early, in the home, but as girls progressed through the state educational system, it reinforced the messages of idealised Catholic womanhood, with the goal of preparing girls for future motherhood. By the first few decades of the twentieth century, religion had become even more enmeshed in education; by then, most Irish girls had access to at least a secondary-level education as well as a 16 irish women quickly expanding body of religious print literature

in Irish women and the creation of modern Catholicism, 1850–1950
Britain, 1945–90

Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age examines the changes in religious life for women religious in Britain from 1945 to 1990 identifying how community and individual lives were altered. This work is grounded in three core premises: women religious were influenced by and participated in the wider social movements of the long 1960s; women’s religious institutes were transnational entities and part of a larger global happening; and the struggles of renewal were linked to competing and contradictory ideas of collective, institutional identities. The work pivots on the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), but considers pre and post Vatican II social, cultural and religious events and social movements of the 1960s as influencers in these changes. It interrogates ‘lived experience’ by examining the day-to-day lives of women religious. Though rooted in the experiences of women religious in Britain, the book probes the relationships and interconnectivities between women religious within and across national divides as they move from institutions embedded in uniformity to the acceptance of cultural plurality. It also engages with the histories of the social movements of the long 1960s. For too long, religion has been relegated to its own silo, unlinked to the ‘radical sixties’ and depicted as ultimately obstructionist to its social movements. To contest this, female religious life is examined as a microcosm of change in the Catholic Church pointing to the ‘new thinking and freer lifestyles’ that allowed for the questioning of institutional cultures.

ardour of Irish devotion have combined to crown our Queen with their richest jewels’, she wrote, ‘none is so dear to the Irish people as this: the Mother of God’.22 Originating in Dublin, the Legion of Mary spread around the globe in the early twentieth century, thus solidifying Ireland’s particular connections with the Virgin and motherhood.23 Concannon’s 1938 volume on devotion to the Virgin in Ireland described the 1921 birth of the Legion of Mary as follows: Fifteen young girls in the company of a priest and a layman were on their knees around a simple altar of the

in Irish women and the creation of modern Catholicism, 1850–1950

descriptors. 1 Indeed, the tendency to focus on the intricacies of this period in a person’s life, particularly in relation to sexual and religious development, is itself one that will be historicised here. The experiences of an eight-year-old Catholic girl were, of course, very different from those of an eighteen-year-old, but the interviewees tended to remember their sexual development in a way that drew

in The Pope and the pill
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poverty persisted in the postfamine decades. Travellers and commentators remarked on the dismal conditions of some rural households; one woman who had thirteen siblings remembered of her early twentieth-century Galway childhood home: We lived in a cottage – it was my grandfather’s small farm. There were three rooms, one to one side and one to the other. The kitchen was in the middle. There was a place above the two side rooms, and you had to have steps to get up there. Three or four of the boys used to sleep up there. There were three girls in the bed, the holy

in Irish women and the creation of modern Catholicism, 1850–1950
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Catholic women were far from passive in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Despite an intensified Church-led Catholic patriarchal culture, lay women did what they could from 1850 to 1950 to maintain autonomy and influence their faith. Those women who would go on to lead post-1950 feminist movements may have gained inspiration not only from first-wave feminists but also by observing their far-from-passive mothers and grandmothers, who managed domestic and local religion and did not hesitate to challenge their priests. Nuns also provided models for girls as

in Irish women and the creation of modern Catholicism, 1850–1950
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close of the instructions, the good Father who was charged with the children inaugurated a confraternity of the Holy Angels. 87 girls who had given their names were present – principally girls who had left school and who are too young to be admitted to our Lady’s Congregation. During the Mission, our Mothers gave special instructions every evening for Adults. Of 72 girls who attended regularly, all, with one exception continue to attend Holy Mass on Sundays and to confess & communicate. May they persevere in their good dispositions.34 The Faithful Companions of Jesus

in Contested identities