Cleanliness and Godliness : a sociological study of the Good Shepherd Convent refuges for the social reformation and Christian conversion of prostitutes and convicted women in nineteenth century Britain
This thesis is concerned with the transformation of prostitutes and other women in the magdalen asylums, the convict refuge, and the certified inebriate reformatory conducted by a roman catholic order of nuns in nineteenth century Britain. Laundry work came to play a central role in the activities expected of the women admitted to these quasi-monastic houses. Its significance is examined in terms of organisational and symbolic correspondences with the structure and ideology of transformative institutions directed to christian conversion. The thesis initially identifies different organisational forms and the ideology revealed by the long-span history of convent refuges. It goes on to consider the problems that tradition posed in the later institutions. The historical account, ordered around a primary sociological concern with transformation, discloses the struggle between the nuns, the secular authorities, and others, to assert differing ideas of religion, morality, and work. The theoretical discussion examines the structure and process of transformation, and the system of classification and control on which it is based. Moving from the notion of Total Institution, the analysis formulates a sociological model of the refuge as a 'Theopticon'. This provides a stable context for a pattern of transformations ranging from the laundry work to the liturgy. The analysis also deals with the role and status of the long-term transformand in pursuit of christian holiness. The theoretical model is then taken back to analyse the major issues raised by the historical account: the persistence of laundry work in the refuges, the nuns' resistance to public inspection and control, and their refusal to pay wages to the penitent women. The historical data is largely derived from primary sources and includes architectural, statistical, and photographic material, as well as documentary evidence.