Constraints on the mother foundresses : contrasts in Anglican and Roman Catholic religious headship in Victorian England
This thesis investigates some of the most important 6 constraints placed upon the mother foundresses of Anglican and Roman Catholic religious communities in Victorian England. It begins by considering how, reestablishing and establishing active, female, religious foundations, these societies offered single women of the time an unusually useful and dedicated life. It demonstrates that the foundresses initiated, administered, and coordinated works of charity, education, nursing, and other missions. They also sought professional status for their members. Finally, they were often supported in their work by lay men and women, especially women. In general, however, they were constrained in this work by society, the family, and the clergy of their respective churches. Of these constraints, anti-Catholicism was the most important. It affected not only Roman Catholics, but also Anglo- Catholics and caused both groups of religious to lead what was, in many respects, a "hidden life". The religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience were unduly condemned as undermining family values. And their relationship with the clergy was problematic: bishops were most concerned with their own jurisdiction and authority and parish priests with their own influence. Finally, secessions of sisters caused serious internal problems, but none so severe as to bring about the abdication of the foundresses. And, paradoxically, if obstacles beset the foundresses in establishing their works at home, abroad they were welcomed by diocesans. Hence, their work expanded around the world: throughout the British Empire amongst the Anglicans; into historically Catholic nations for the Romans; and to the United States of America for both Anglicans and Roman Catholics. In these places, foundresses furnish examples of female leadership rare in the nineteenth century. The thesis concludes by showing how tenaciously both Anglican and Roman foundresses sought the recognition of their respective churches, and yet in achieving it, whether informally or formally, placed the most significant constraint of all upon their work.