Search Results

Abstract only

Contested identities

Catholic women religious in nineteenth-century England and Wales

Carmen M. Mangion

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.

Abstract only

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

Abstract only

Carmen M. Mangion

identity of Catholic women religious. In nineteenth-century England, representations of women religious were ambiguous and contested from both within and without the convent. The nun was often the centre of controversy in the Protestant press: sometimes as a scheming mother superior, other times as a young nun incarcerated against 1 Francesca M. Steele, The Convents of Great Britain (London: Sands, and Dublin: M.H. Gill, 1902), p. xi. This figure is based on Steele’s calculation of 600 convents with an average of seventeen professed sisters in each convent. There has

Abstract only

Carmen M. Mangion

5 Professionalising1 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

Abstract only

Carmen M. Mangion

the aegis of a patriarchal church. Women religious, too, like the moral crusaders Butler and Hopkins, used their religious identity to buttress their authority. Women religious exercised their authority in two contexts: within the convent and in the institutions they managed in the public sphere. This authority was not universally acknowledged. It was sometimes contested, oftentimes negotiated and always circumscribed. Gender was central to the tensions that surrounded the issues of governance and authority. But in nineteenth-century England, the religious identity

Abstract only

Carmen M. Mangion

women entering religious life. This chapter questions these discourses and examines women’s agency in ‘choosing’ religious life.26 Religious life was not a natural option in a Protestant country where Catholicism was still contested. In addition, not all Catholic parents welcomed the departure, which could be permanent, of their daughters from their family circle. Women who encountered obstacles to their entry into religious life constructed an identity that legitimated their choice. Gail Malmgreen, in her examination of the Methodist revival, comments that Methodist

Abstract only

Carmen M. Mangion

norm. This new way of leading religious life shifted the gendered identity of women religious and slowly redefined the understanding of femininity and religious life. In England, this expansion of religious life was developing just after the initial dismantling of repressive penal laws against Catholicism.4 The threat 1 2 3 4 F.C. Devas SJ, Mother Mary Magdalen of the Sacred Heart (Fanny Margaret Taylor): Foundress of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God 1832–1900 (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, 1927), p. 96. Comprehensive, comparative studies of women

Open Access (free)

Douglas Blum

2504Chap2 7/4/03 12:38 pm Page 29 2 Contested national identities and weak state structures in Eurasia Douglas Blum Since their very inception, many of the Soviet successor states have been beset by ethnic violence, crime, trafficking – in arms, drugs and people – terrorism, poverty, pollution and migration.1 Most have also faced deeper problems of legitimacy and ideological drift. To a significant extent these pathologies can be traced back to the delegitimisation of the entire Soviet world view, and the lack of any viable replacement. The existence of an

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

Abstract only

Carmen M. Mangion

Eighteenth Century to the Present (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1994), p. 66. Carol Dyhouse, Girls Growing Up in Late Victorian and Edwardian England (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981), p. 26; Deborah Gorham, The Victorian Girl and the Feminine Ideal (London: Croom Helm, 1982), p. 79. 90 Developing identities claimed exultantly that female satisfaction was achieved through selflessness.7 These principles were also inculcated in the training of women religious in the nineteenth century; they were integral to the development of ‘good strong