Contested identities

Catholic women religious in nineteenth-century England and Wales

By Carmen M. Mangion

Contested identities

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9551-1
  • Pages: 300
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £19.99
  • Published Date: April 2014
  • BIC Category: Modern History, History, European history, Christian life & practice, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Women's Studies, RELIGION / Christian Life / General, Society & social sciences / Gender studies: women, Humanities / British & Irish history


English Roman Catholic women's congregations are an enigma of nineteenth-century social history. Over ten thousand nuns and sisters, establishing and managing significant Catholic educational, health care and social welfare institutions in England and Wales, have virtually disappeared from history. Despite their exclusion from historical texts, these women featured prominently in the public and private sphere. Intertwining the complexities of class with the notion of ethnicity, Contested identities examines the relationship between English and Irish-born sisters.

This study is relevant not only to understanding women religious and Catholicism in nineteenth-century England and Wales, but also to our understanding of the role of women in the public and private sphere, dealing with issues still resonant today.

Contributing to the larger story of the agency of nineteenth-century women and the broader transformation of English society, this book will appeal to scholars and students of social, cultural, gender and religious history.


'This book represents a towering achievement of modern scholarship, fusing gender, cultural, social and religious history in a beautifully written book.'
Susan Mumm, Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario

'Mangion provides fresh angles on how the simple-vowed religious women contributed impressively to English Catholic life.'
Margaret MacCurtain, University College, Dublin

'This is an exceptionally fine book, which draws not only on an extensive body of secondary sources, but also on a great range of primary source material. It constitutes essential reading for all who are interested in the history of women religious, the history of women, the history of education and the history of religion.'
Tom O'Donoghue, The University of Western Australia


Part I: Developing identities
1. Becoming visible
2. Choosing religious life
3. Forming a novice
Part II: Working identities
4. Evangelising
5. Professionalising
Part III: Corporate Identities
6. Building corporate identity
7. Class and ethnicity
8. Authority and governance


Carmen M. Mangion is a Lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London

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