Irish women and the creation of modern Catholicism, 1850-1950

By Cara Delay

Irish women and the creation of modern Catholicism, 1850-1950


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3642-8
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: March 2019
  • BIC Category: Religion, RELIGION / Sexuality & Gender Studies, HISTORY / Europe / Ireland, RELIGION / Christianity / Catholic, Society & social sciences / Gender studies: women, Roman Catholicism, Roman Catholic Church, Humanities / British & Irish history, History, Modern History


This is the first book-length study to investigate the place of lay Catholic women in modern Irish history. It analyses the intersections of gender, class and religion by exploring the roles that middle-class, working-class and rural poor women played in the evolution of Irish Catholicism and thus the creation of modern Irish identities. The book demonstrates that in an age of Church growth and renewal, stretching from the aftermath of the Great Famine through the Free State years, lay women were essential to all aspects of Catholic devotional life, including both home-based religion and public rituals. It also reveals that women, by rejecting, negotiating and reworking Church dictates, complicated Church and clerical authority. Irish women and the creation of modern Catholicism re-evaluates the relationship between the institutional Church, the clergy and women, positioning lay Catholic women as central actors in the making of modern Ireland.


'[.] an extremely important and rich subject, and Delay has contributed significantly to its exploration here.'
British Catholic History

'Irish women and the creation of modern Catholicism provides a new perspective on how the Catholic Church impacted the lives of women. Focusing on the personal and community level, Delay has illuminated the myriad ways which women shaped Catholicism during and after the Devotional Revolution as well as how the Church impacted their lives. The book places the experiences of lay women at its forefront, in so doing presenting an array of interactions with religious practice and the Catholic hierarchy, ranging from staunch support to covert resistance. It represents an excellent contribution to Irish religious history and women's history.'
Women's History Association of Ireland

'[Delay's] approach has created a rich study with much for historians to reflect upon. [...] this book makes a valuable contribution to our quest to elucidate the process of the Catholicisation of Ireland.'
Lindsey Earner-Byrne, Irish Historical Studies

In Irish Women and the Creation of Modern Catholicism, Cara Delay offers us a book that is primarily about Ireland. However, it includes reference to female activism and agency within Catholic cultures across the world. The Catholic Ireland that she creates is not isolated or insular; it is filled with the tensions of family, of emigration, of rebellion and of nationhood. This is a much-needed addition to our knowledge of nineteenth- and
twentieth-century Ireland and the study of women within religious institutions.'
Sophie Cooper, Australasian Journal of Irish Studies

The introduction of lay Catholic women into modern Irish history is long overdue, and Delay's work prompts its readers to question how we view women's engagement with religion and society during such a consequential
period in modern Irish history.'
Journal of Ecclesiastical History


1 Women and Catholic culture
2 Catholic girlhoods
3 The Irish Catholic mother
4 The holy household
5 Gender and space
6 Women, priests, and power
Select bibliography


Cara Delay is Associate Professor in the History Department at the College of Charleston

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