The Transforming Power of the Nuns

The Transforming Power of the Nuns : Women, Religion, and Cultural Change in Ireland, 1750-1900

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Mary Peckham Magray argues that the Irish Catholic cultural revolution in the nineteenth century was effected not only by male elites, as previous scholarship has claimed, but also by the most overlooked and underestimated women in Ireland: the nuns. Once thought to be merely passive servants of the male clerical hierarchy, women's religious orders were in fact at the very centre of the creation of a devout Catholic culture in Ireland. Often well-educated, articulate, and evangelical, nuns were much more social and ambitious than traditional stereotypical views have held. They used their wealth and their authority to effect changes in both the religious practices and daily activity of the larger Irish Catholic population, and by doing so, Magray argues, deserve a far larger place in the Irish historical record than they have previously been accorded. Magray's innovative work challenges some of the most widely-held assumptions of social history in nineteenth-century Ireland. It will be of interest to scholars and students of Irish history, religious history, women's studies, and sociology.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 196 pages
  • 163.6 x 242.3 x 25.9mm | 547.41g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New
  • 10 halftones, 2 maps
  • 0195112997
  • 9780195112993
  • 2,126,497

Review quote

A welcome contribution to Irish social and cultural history. .. provides historians of Irish women with a new perspective on Catholic women's lives in the nineteenth century. Magray challenges traditional views, long held, concerning the so-called devotional revolution that resulted in the successful reconquest of Ireland by an all-powerful Catholic Church in the post-Famine years. She also argues convincingly for an appreciation of the pivotal role that Irish women
religious played in that social revolution. * Journal of Modern History * Magray's study of nuns in Ireland is a considerable addition to Irish social, cultural and religious history. * Irish Economic and Social History * Magray's dissection of the establishment of the Sisters of Mercy is a superb piece of historical analysis revealing fundamental conflict in areas of gender, class and sectarianism. * Irish Economic and Social History * Magray argues convincingly for the central role nuns played in the religious and cultural transformation of Catholic life in Ireland and the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She has begun a serious argument for their centrality in the 'devotional revolution', an argument that must be considered more thoughtfully by historians of religion in Ireland. Nuns were not a consequence of this 'revolution' but rather a significant force in shaping it. * History * ... extremely informative, well-written and convincing. * Journal of Ecclesiastical History * This is a provocative and important book, and takes its place among a growing body of material dealing with women's history in nineteenth-century Ireland. It deserves to be widely read. * Journal of Ecclesiastical History *
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About Mary Peckham Magray

Mary Peckham Magray is Assistant Professor of History at Wesleyan College.
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