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devotional items including the rosary beads so beloved by Dublin’s mothers in the 1940s and 1950s. 2 irish women Notably, lay Irish women played important yet understudied roles in the Church from 1850 to 1950. Women dominated daily lived religion and challenged the established patriarchy through their traditional socially constructed gender roles: church-goers, managers of the holy household, moral-imparting mothers, consumers and creators of devotional culture, correspondents, gossipers, philanthropists and activists, and community members. Amidst enormous political

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), pp. 1–64. 7 Over time, Rome became more tolerant of simple-vowed women religious, and in Quamvis justo (1749) congregations were given legitimate and juridical authority although their members were not considered ‘true nuns’. 8 Catherine C. Darcy RSM, The Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas: The Canonical Development of the Proposed Governance Model (Lanham: University Press of America, 1993), p. 23. 9 Nicholas Atkin, The Politics of Legality: The Religious Orders in France, 1901– 45’, in Frank Tallett and Nicholas Atkin, eds, Religion, Society and

in Contested identities

– books and ­periodicals – to read. And by this time, Catholicism had become solidified as the central focus of girls’ lives and education. As part of their religious education, Irish girls absorbed the vast prescriptive literature of the era. The conduct literature of Catholic commentators in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however, did not represent a simple or uniform patriarchy. The messages involved were complex, reflecting anxieties about lay women’s real-world roles. Whereas Church leaders, public political figures, and much of Ireland’s print

in Irish women and the creation of modern Catholicism, 1850–1950
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reveals, is that Irish women – rural and urban, lower-class and conclusion 241 middle-class, and across a century of unprecedented political and economic change – were consistently active in the creation of modern Catholicism, emerging, in the process, not as mere symbols but also key contributors to the family, community, faith, and future. Notes 1 Eamonn McKee, ‘Church-state relations and the development of Irish health policy: the Mother-and-Child Scheme, 1944–1953’, Irish Historical Studies 25: 98 (1986), p. 171. 2 Letter from Catholic hierarchy to the

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religious of the nineteenth century have yet to be written. Jo Ann Kay McNamara, Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns through Two Millennia (London: Harvard University Press, 1996). The penal laws were a series of legislation issued after the English Reformation and directed against Roman Catholics that penalised, both politically and economically, those who practised the Catholic faith. 22 Developing identities of the penal laws was not so easily forgotten by Catholics, and Protestant attitudes towards Catholics and Catholicism were not easily altered. The migration of

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her zeal for education, and trained numbers of the teachers under the New System’.26 In 1852, the Catholic Poor School Committee began subsidising the teacher training school run there.27 The Sisters of Charity of St Paul the Apostle designated their Selly Park novitiate as the house of studies. Teacher 24 J.L. Altholtz, The Political Behaviour of English Catholics, 1850–67’, Journal of British Studies, 4 (1964), 89–103 (p. 92). The Committee of the Privy Council became the Department of Education in 1856. 25 John P. Marmion, ‘The Beginnings of the Catholic Poor

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. According to Elizabeth Rapley, the French aristocratic elite ‘accepted the principle of active religious life for women, on the understanding that their own daughters would not be affected’. These daughters entered the older, higher-status contemplative orders. Their status as nuns was higher than that of the active, simple-vowed sisters; they were not a part of the movement of the filles séculières.10 This type of class 8 Claire Walker, Gender and Politics in Seventeenth-Century English Convents: English Convents in France and the Low Countries (Basingstoke: Palgrave

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. ‘Yes! Whatever the doctor will say,’ said Neil Pheig, ‘I will not be here looking at her in the distress she is in; I will loosen the bindings.’ She undid them, and she got a scapular of a woman that was there, and she placed it on the woman in labour, and without much delay the child was born.38 This narrative demonstrates how continuities sometimes characterised Irish women’s lives even across a century of enormous political and economic change. Just as O’Sullivan’s parishioner had in the mid-­ nineteenth century, Neil Pheig utilised the scapular to protect a woman

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

of women religious and their approved rule and constitutions provided the legitimisation needed to 7 Alison Milbank, ‘Josephine Butler: Christianity, Feminism and Social Action’, in Jim Obelkevich, Lyndal Roper and Raphael Samuel, eds, Disciplines of Faith: Studies in Religion, Politics and Patriarchy (London: Routledge, 1987), pp. 154–64 (pp. 155–6). 8 Susan Mumm, ‘“I Love my Sex”: Two Late Victorian Pulpit Women’, in Women, Scholarship and Criticism: Gender and Knowledge c. 1790–1900, ed. by Joan Bellamy, Anne Laurence and Gill Perry (Manchester: Manchester

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6 Women, priests, and power From January 1879 through December 1880, Edward McCabe, the Catholic archbishop of Dublin, received eighty-three letters written by lay Catholic women.1 In their letters, Dublin’s Catholic women wrote of poverty, family, and politics. They requested McCabe’s assistance with making ends meet and mediating neighbourly conflicts. Many sought their archbishop’s help in negotiating their relationships with their priests.2 These women also, however, asserted their own wishes and desires, declaring that they were in fact central actors in the

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