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Catholicism, gender and ethnicity in nineteenth-century Scotland

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.

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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in spiritual life which at one and the same time empowered and confined them’.1 This book argues that religious belief provided nineteenth-century Catholic women religious 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; women religious willingly accepted many of the strictures of the Roman Catholic Church that subjected them to its patriarchal structure and sometimes limited their actions. Yet women religious had more authority and

in Contested identities
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chapter will argue, on evanglisation. This does not imply that the work of women religious was without contemplative content. Many nineteenth-century women religious found the ‘sustenance’ to perform their ‘works of mercy’ firmly rooted in their spirituality. 112 Working identities 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 Catholic women religious to nineteenth

in Contested identities
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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 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 Catholic women religious. As Kathryn Gleadle observed in her work on nineteenth-century British women radicals and Unitarians, ‘Evangelical notions of women’s

in Contested identities

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 ‘old maids’.5 Catholic women possessed a third alternative: religious life.6 This

in Contested identities
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a picture of the Sacred Heart, which was permanently lit by a glowing red lamp. Our font was made from an old jam jar and a twig of box hedging, and Mammy would sprinkle holy water around the house with the twig every night to protect us from evil spirits.3 As these examples illustrate, women – grandmothers, sisters, daughters, and mothers – oversaw the material culture of the early twentieth-century Irish Catholic household. By creating holy households dominated by a devotional material culture, Irish Catholic women asserted their religious authority within the

in Irish women and the creation of modern Catholicism, 1850–1950
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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’s religious life flourished. As congregations were founded in England, the number of convents and the number of women religious 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 England Catholic Emancipation in 1829 was highly contested in Protestant England

in Contested identities
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human lifecycle.4 Yet when Ireland experienced a ‘devotional revolution’, Catholic religious practice moved away from the landscape gender and space 175 and into the disciplined space of the Catholic chapel.5 As the Catholic Church organised and reformed, a trained clergy gained control over local religion and ritual, much of which women had traditionally overseen. Accompanying this religious shift, then, may have been a decline in public religious activity for lay women.6 As Maria Luddy has pointed out, by the late nineteenth century, most Irish bishops and

in Irish women and the creation of modern Catholicism, 1850–1950
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postulant and a novice created the basis of the identity of women religious. It was a paradoxical identity, and in this chapter its meaning will be explored in various contexts. Postulants 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 ‘irrépréhensible

in Contested identities