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.
Catholics for experienced women religious to develop and manage
educational, health care and social welfare institutions. These institutions
were marked with the congregation’s special brand of evangelisation and
were essential for the growth of Catholic missions in England. The
missionaryidentity of women religious was a facet of their religious identity:
they were active in both domestic and international missionary work.22 This
chapter, however, will examine their missionaryidentity as missionaries in
England, the home mission field. The labour of women religious in
objectives were clearly articulated in
congregation constitutions which decreed that women religious laboured ‘for
the salvation of souls’. As women religious, they were called to evangelise.
Connecting these activities to their missionaryidentity is straightforward, but
adding to their cache of identities a ‘professional identity’ can be,
problematic and discomfiting. This difficulty is not associated solely with
Catholic women religious. As Kathryn Gleadle observed in her work on
nineteenth-century British women radicals and Unitarians, ‘Evangelical
notions of women
options, they chose a path that best suited their
personal, spiritual, economic and vocational needs. Chapter 3 considers how
the training for religious life shaped the identity of women religious. The
postulancy and novitiate period formed a rite of passage that tested the
vocation of each aspirant. The second part, ‘Working identities’, explores the
religious activism of women religious first, in Chapter 4, through their
missionaryidentity. The labour of women religious in the fields of education
and health care and in the provision of social services was intricately
American colonial and missionary nurses in Puerto Rico, 1900–30
Winifred C. Connerton
Printing Office, 1900), p. 486, http://
books.google.com/books?id=bqcdAQAAIAAJ (accessed 18 February 2015).
8 S. S. Gotay, Protestantismo y política en Puerto Rico, 1898–1930: hacia una
historia del protestantismo evangélico en Puerto Rico (San Juan, PR: Editorial
de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1997).
9 A. B. Wills, ‘Mapping Presbyterian missionaryidentity in The Church at Home
and Abroad, 1890–1898’, in D. H. Bays and G. Wacker (eds), The Foreign
Missionary Enterprise at Home: Explorations in North American Cultural
History (Tuscaloosa: University of
pride and an extension
of Ireland’s missionaryidentity in another form, though the majority
remained ignorant of conditions on the ground.
Yet their reaction told only part of the story. In its four years in
operation, ONUC had a profound, and lasting, impact on all the actors
involved. For the ‘ﬁre brigade’ states, the complexity of the crisis and
its detrimental effect on the UN brought home the difﬁculties of living
up to their strong rhetorical commitment to the maintenance of international order. It opened their eyes to the difﬁcult tasks associated
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and
Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991), p. 6.
75 For more on the missionaryidentity of women religious, see Chapter 4.
76 DHM: C3 ‘London Diary: Clapham’, 29 June 1880 and 12 February 1866.
77 RSM Bermondsey: ‘Bermondsey Annals’, 1880, p. 256.
78 SMG: I/D ‘Memories of the Early Days’, p. 15.
79 RSM Bermondsey: ‘Bermondsey Annals’, 1871, p. 191.
Building corporate identity
Congregations shared their knowledge and experience with each other.
When the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace arrived
Ipswich, Queensland in 1863 is possibly the
first recorded instance of an Anglican cleric taking part in a St
George’s Day gathering in Australia. 130 The Church of England’s
limited interest in Englishness at the Cape is understandable given that
its high command were vocal in their attempts to cultivate a missionaryidentity for their institution. The invisibility of the Anglican clergy
stress their loyalty to the British constitution, monarchy and
established order; by contrast, in the era of missionary enthusiasm in
the 1830s and 1840s candidates were much more likely to cite religious
motivations in their applications. 106 Statements in missionary applications do
need to be treated with caution, but such changes suggest that
Tractarian ideas about the Church’s missionaryidentity were