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.
-Dehquani, Religious Feminism in an Age of Empire: CMS
Women Missionaries in Iran, 1869–1934 (Bristol: University of Bristol, 2000);
Gulnar Eleanor Francis-Dehquani, ‘Medical Missions and the History of
Feminism: Emmeline Stuart of the CMS Persia Mission’, in Morgan, ed., 2002,
pp. 197–212; Sean Gill, ‘Heroines of Missionary Adventure: The Portrayal of
Victorian Women Missionaries in Popular Fiction and Biography’ in Anne
played in the development of British Protestant missions in the nineteenth
century provides a comparative assessment of the gendered
It is not praising a nun to say that she is a good teacher or a good cook (though
these qualities are valuable acquisitions to their Community), but the praise of a
nun is to say ‘She is a good religious’.2
The labour of women religious in the fields of education and health care and
in the provision of social services was intricately linked to their missionary
and professional identity. As discussed in the previous chapter, salvation –
their own and that of others – was at the core of their way of life as simplevowed women religious. Their
promoting religious reform, fostering denominational pride, and asserting their
loyalty to the United Kingdom.3
These comments suggest that Presbyterians should not have been concerned with
Patrick and the early Irish Church. However, from the 1830s onwards, a variety of
Presbyterian writers grappled with Ireland’s patron saint and in so doing used Patrick
as a means of contributing to contemporary debates about historical scholarship,
Church organisation, missionary activity, and identity politics. A study of Presbyterian
interpretations of Patrick in the nineteenth
women religious. Women religious
were unable to know everyone in the congregation yet they imagined their
68 RSM Bermondsey: ‘Bermondsey Annals’, 1852, p. 191. When new convents
were opened, experienced Sisters of Mercy would often be loaned temporarily to
69 Ibid, 1867, p. 117.
70 SND: BX EV/1 in BH2, ‘Everton Annals’, 3 August 1873.
71 SND: C3 ‘London Diary: Clapham’, 1847–80, 8 August 1861.
72 RSM Bermondsey: ‘Bermondsey Annals’, 1872, p. 194.
73 FCJ: A1856 ‘Isleworth Annals’, 1899.
unity and connectedness.74 As missionary entities
missionaries happened to arrive in India in
1841 is the subject of the first section of the book, from the origins
of their Calvinistic Methodist denomination in the eighteenth century,
their split from the LMS as an assertion of Welsh identity, the voyage
to India and their arrival in the hills at a time when earlier
missionaries from Serampore had already wielded some influence. The
The biblical identity politics of the Demerara Slave Rebellion
A rich variety of other materials illuminate the religious culture of Bethel Chapel – missionary correspondence, LMS reports, the church's hymn book, colonial records, newspapers and eyewitness accounts of the rebellion.
This chapter will mine the sources to reconstruct the biblical identity politics of Bethel Chapel and its insurgents. The first section will analyse how John Smith employed the Bible to forge a new identity for his congregation. Section two will turn to the more difficult task of piecing together fragmentary evidence of an
Biblical literacy and Khoesan national renewal in the Cape Colony
congregants, Khoesan appropriated biblical literacy in order to claim their own covenant with God. In doing so, Khoesan confirmed the Bible as a potent repository of symbolism and imagery to serve Khoesan national renewal and to challenge racially based notions of Christian identity. This was to have significant social and political ramifications during the early nineteenth-century colonial encounter in the Cape Colony.
Khoesan social crisis and the arrival of the missionaries
In 1806, the second British occupation
from sources spanning centuries,
and from various Orders.51
THE MISSIONARY SPIRIT OF ENCLOSED NUNS
English Benedictine nuns wrote, copied and translated texts with
the keen awareness that they were building a strong legacy; these
texts both shaped and stated the contours of their spiritual identity, and were meant to be inspirational for future generations. This
legacy was revived and vindicated with the edition and publication
of many of the communities’ annals in the nineteenth and early
gendered space of early Chicago’, The Catholic Historical Review, 90 (2004), p. 475.
56 Susan O’Brien, ‘French nuns in nineteenth-century England’, Past & Present, 54:1
(1997), p. 142.
57 Carmen Mangion, Contested Identities: Catholic Women Religious in NineteenthCentury England and Wales (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2008.),
58 Susan O’Brien, ‘Coda – missing missionaries: where are the Catholic sisters in
British missiology?’ Unpublished paper delivered at the 4th annual Consecrated
Women Conference, Divinity Faculty, Cambridge University, 16