This book examines the changing nature of Catholicism in modern Scotland by placing a significant emphasis on women religious. It highlights the defining role they played in the transformation and modernisation of the Catholic Church as it struggled to cope with unprecedented levels of Irish migration. The institutions and care-networks that these women established represented a new age in social welfare that served to connect the church with Scotland's emerging civil society. The book examines how the church reacted to liberalism, legislative reform, the rise of evangelicalism and the continued growth of Irish migration between the late 1820s and the late 1850s. A mutual aversion to the Irish and a loyalty to nation and state inspired a recusant and ultramontane laity to invest heavily in a programme of church transformation and development. The recruitment of the Ursulines of Jesus, the first community of nuns to return to Scotland since the Reformation, is highlighted as a significant step towards legitimising Catholic respectability. The book focuses on the recruitment and influence of women religious. It also focuses on the issue of identity by considering how gender and ethnicity influenced the development of these religious communities and how this was connected with the broader campaign to transform Catholic culture in Scotland. The book also examines the development of Catholic education in Scotland between the late 1840s and 1900 and prioritises the role played by women religious in this process.
Roman Catholic women's congregations are an enigma of nineteenth century social history. Over 10,000 women, establishing and managing significant Catholic educational, health care and social welfare institutions in England and Wales, have virtually disappeared from history. In nineteenth-century England, representations of women religious were ambiguous and contested from both within and without the convent. This book places women religious in the centre of nineteenth-century social history and reveals how religious activism shaped the identity of Catholic women religious. It is devoted to evolution of religious life and the early monastic life of the women. Catholic women were not pushed into becoming women religious. On the basis of their available options, they chose a path that best suited their personal, spiritual, economic and vocational needs. The postulancy and novitiate period formed a rite of passage that tested the vocation of each aspirant. The book explores the religious activism of women religious through their missionary identity and professional identity. The labour of these women was linked to their role as evangelisers. The book deals with the development of a congregation's corporate identity which brought together a disparate group of women under the banner of religious life. It looks specifically at class and ethnicity and the women who entered religious life, and identifies the source of authority for the congregation and the individual sister.
in spiritual life which at one and the
same time empowered and confined them’.1 This book argues that religious
belief provided nineteenth-century Catholicwomenreligious with the tools
to transcend the normative boundaries of femininity and to redefine the
parameters of womanhood. This is not to say that these redefined parameters
were all empowering; womenreligious willingly accepted many of the
strictures of the Roman Catholic Church that subjected them to its
patriarchal structure and sometimes limited their actions. Yet womenreligious had more authority and
chapter will argue, on evanglisation. This does not imply that the work of womenreligious was without contemplative content. Many nineteenth-century womenreligious found the ‘sustenance’ to perform their ‘works of mercy’ firmly rooted
in their spirituality.
following the directives of the Catholic hierarchy.3 At times, credit for their
achievements has been assumed to belong to male colleagues or
ecclesiastical officials. However, as will be seen in the next two chapters, the
contribution of Catholicwomenreligious to nineteenth
objectives were clearly articulated in
congregation constitutions which decreed that womenreligious laboured ‘for
the salvation of souls’. As womenreligious, they were called to evangelise.
Connecting these activities to their missionary identity is straightforward, but
adding to their cache of identities a ‘professional identity’ can be,
problematic and discomfiting. This difficulty is not associated solely with
Catholicwomenreligious. As Kathryn Gleadle observed in her work on
nineteenth-century British women radicals and Unitarians, ‘Evangelical
notions of women’s
Victorian women with numerous examples of the
prescribed nineteenth-century ideal of womanly virtue. In this literature,
marriage was the pinnacle of true womanhood; single life was deemed
unattractive and a personal failure.4 There were, of course, some exceptions
to this opinion. Mrs William Grey, lecturing on ‘Old Maids’ in 1875,
protested against this widespread view of a single woman as a ‘social failure,
a social superfluity, or a social laughing-stock’ and lectured on the utility of
Catholicwomen possessed a third alternative: religious life.6 This
great numbers of Irish Catholics and the influx of new converts
to Catholicism also influenced the cultural mix of Catholic England. Within
this melange of Catholicism, the developments in women’sreligious life
flourished. As congregations were founded in England, the number of
convents and the number of womenreligious grew exponentially. This was
not a unique trend, but one that coincided with the moral and devotional
culture that flourished in nineteenth-century England.
Catholic Emancipation in 1829 was highly contested in Protestant England
postulant and a
novice created the basis of the identity of womenreligious. It was a
paradoxical identity, and in this chapter its meaning will be explored in
Fervent religious devotion, zeal for philanthropic activity and attraction to
religious life were important precursors to successful active vocations.
However, the existence of these attributes did not assure a woman entry into
a congregation. The Roman Catholic Church listed various criteria for those
entering religious life, the foremost being that they must lead
women, who were a minority, it is not the writer’s intention to
denigrate the importance of the majority of women, whose voices often
rang loud and clear during their lifetimes, but who are silent in the historical record.
The most obvious Catholicwomen whose voices were heard between
1800 and 1921 were nuns, as religious sisters were commonly known.
The increase in the number and variety of religiouswomen over this
period has been well documented over the past twenty-five years.
According to Tony Fahey, numbers rose from 120 in 1800 to over
8,000 in 1901. There
themselves to teaching.
This chapter shows how womenreligious took female elementary education and catholicity in Scotland to a new level, and it is divided into two. It
considers the role that womenreligious played in the development of Catholic
education and examines how this was interlinked with the state’s ambition to
reduce working-class radicalism and with Scotland’s emerging national identity. The first section outlines educational provision at mid-century and compares it to what existed on the eve of the Education (Scotland) Act of 1872.
The second section