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Catholic women religious in nineteenth-century England and Wales

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.

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Carmen M. Mangion

looked at the developing identities of women entering religious life. Women’s religious congregations in England, as in other parts of the world, entered a period of dramatic growth in the nineteenth century. There were many women who had the ‘same idea at the same time’. In 1 Philippa Levine, Victorian Feminism 1850–1900 (London: Hutchinson, 1987), pp. 11–12. 236 Contested identities England, this expansion of religious life was set in a unique framework in a country that was just dismantling repressive penal laws against Catholics. Moreover, until the nineteenth

in Contested identities
Abstract only
Carmen M. Mangion

texts used to instruct women religious on the means of achieving perfection. Perfection was not only represented in a religious sense but also linked to ideas of gentility, decorum and, by default, class. Class is central to studying religion in nineteenth-century England,5 and it follows that class is relevant to our understanding of identity and women religious. Another important dimension to this analysis of identity is ethnicity, especially as forty-one per cent of the women who entered religious congregations in England and Wales were Irish-born.6 The

in Contested identities
Abstract only
Carmen M. Mangion

evangelical activities took place outside convent walls.5 In the early 2 Some solemn-vowed, enclosed orders did perform philanthropic work, often teaching, from inside the cloister. However, in this book ‘active’ institutes are defined as those that perform their activities outside the cloister. 3 The terms ‘communities’ and ‘institutes’ will be used interchangeably throughout this book to denote both solemn and simple-vowed groupings of women religious. ‘Congregation’ as used in this book refers to a community of women who take simple vows. The term ‘mother house’ or

in Contested identities
Carmen Mangion

who was either heralded as a progressive and sparkling rendition of all that was new or, in a negative stereotype, reflected a tainted version of femininity when compared to rose-coloured imaginings of a bygone age. The abbesses’ stories suggest the Modern Girl was a figure of fun, but she was also instrumental in the refashioning of female religious life in Catholic religious congregations and orders. This chapter examines her influence. It begins with a historiographical introduction to the Modern Girl and girlhood more broadly. It then reveals her relationship to

in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age
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Carmen M. Mangion

Heimann’s comprehensive analysis of Catholic devotions in nineteenthcentury England suggested that increasingly ‘more Catholics heard mass, received communion and made confessions, and did so more often; confraternities and other religious societies multiplied in number and grew in membership’.39 Religious congregations often used ceremonies, processions and devotions as educational vehicles in their ‘works of mercy’, but these were also useful as a means of deepening the relationship between women religious and their congregation. In religious congregations, two

in Contested identities
Benoît Majerus and Pieter Verstraete

few years later. The Catholic University of Leuven was the only higher-education institution to provide a degree over time 12 – probably to some extent because of the important role of religious congregations in psychiatric care. Throughout the nineteenth century, psychiatrists also explored alternative approaches, which are often forgotten today but at the time were

in Medical histories of Belgium
Lucy Simpson-Kilbane

Report As discussed in this volume's Introduction, in the early decades of the twentieth century, as an era of unrest and civil war gave way to a period of deepening conservatism, few were inclined to challenge the powerful relationship between the Catholic church and Irish state or, indeed, the role of Catholic religious congregations in the provision of welfare. 5 There was, as such, little desire to investigate the Magdalen Laundries, or other church-run institutions catering for those on the

in Legacies of the Magdalen Laundries
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Carmen M. Mangion

1 Becoming visible I see plainly that they are not what we want, and that they have half our idea, but only half. I do not regret stopping for I learnt a great deal in my visit. It is curious how many people have had the same idea at the same time.1 Frances Taylor’s comment, written to Lady Georgiana Fullerton after her 1869 visit to the religious congregation of the Maids of Christ, was an astute one: it suggests that the expansion of women’s congregations in the nineteenth century was dynamic, not only in England, but also in parts of Europe.2 There were many

in Contested identities
Carmen M. Mangion

served to build awareness of, and in some cases, an attraction to, active religious life. This chapter will look in more detail into individual women’s lives and explore the factors that encouraged their entry into religious communities. The previous chapter explored the dramatic growth of religious life in the nineteenth century, which fuelled not only by the substantial numbers of women entering religious congregations, but also by the increasing number of requests from bishops, clergy and lay Catholics for experienced women religious to develop and manage

in Contested identities