Different habits : representations of Anglican sisterhoods in mid-nineteenth century literature
This thesis deals with the different ways in which Anglican Sisterhoods were portrayed in fiction and journalism, both religious and secular, in the mid-nineteenth century. It examines the influence of anti-Roman Catholic and anti-convent literature on these portrayals and considers whether there was any significant interchange between Sisterhoods and the feminist movement of the mid-nineteenth century. The first two chapters deal with the founding of the first Sisterhoods by the Oxford Movement as active, charitable communities in the 1840s, and the type of women - predominately upper- and upper-middle class - attracted by the life and work they offered. The histories of one Sisterhood, and of two Sisters, one typical, the other not, are examined. Periodical articles of the time, while approving of the work undertaken by Sisterhoods - nursing and teaching, for example - with the poorest classes of society, tended to express doubts about Roman Catholic influences, and the suitability of the work for ladies. Chapter three deals with a court case of 1869 in which a Roman Catholic Sister of Mercy accused her convent of ill-treatment. The case attracted enormous publicity and was expected to confirm prurient speculation about convents put forward in anti-Roman Catholic propaganda and fiction, but instead raised issues about the fitness of women for communal living, celibacy and leadership. The case was used by some writers as a plea for more secular work opportunities for women. Chapter four examines works of fiction which feature Sisterhoods, or issues connected with them, by writers of different denominations. Chapters five and six deal with the works of Charlotte Yonge and Henry Kingsley respectively. Yonge was a promoter of High Church values and supporter of Sisterhoods, while Kingsley was an ecumenicist who approved of Anglican and Roman Catholic orders equally.