1st Edition

Reconsidering Catholic Lay Womanhood Pious Transgressors in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century England

By Kathryn G. Lamontagne Copyright 2024

    This book offers a new perspective on the often-overlooked lives of lay women in the English Roman Catholic Church. It explores how over a century ago in England some exceptional Catholic lay women – Margaret Fletcher, Maude Petre, Radclyffe Hall, and Mabel Batten - negotiated non-traditional family lives and were actively practicing their faith, while not adhering to perceived structures of femininity, power, and sexuality. Focusing on c. 1880-1930, a time of dynamism and change in both England and the Church, these remarkable women represent a rethinking of what it meant to be a lay women in the English Roman Catholic Church. Their pious transgressions demonstrate the multiplicity of ways lay women powerfully asserted aspects of their faith while contravening boundaries traditionally assumed for them in an ostensibly patriarchal religion. In fact, the Church could be a place for expressions of unconventional religiosity and reinterpretations of womanhood and domesticity. Connecting together the lives of these women for the first time, this work fills a lacuna in the scholarship of modern Catholic and gender history. Drawing from private collections and numerous archives, it illustrates the surprising range of modes of Lived Catholicism and devotion to faith. Students and scholars of Catholicism, gender, and LGBTQIA+ studies will find significant merit in a book that assigns lay women a more prominent role in the English Catholic Church and offers examples of the flexibility of Roman Catholicism.

    Introduction 1. Catholicism and Lay Womanhood 2. Margaret Fletcher: A Middle-Class Convert 3. Maude Petre: Womanhood, Cohabitation, and Respectability 4. The Society Sapphists: Mabel Batten and Radclyffe Hall Conclusion: Making Connections Among Lay Catholic Women


    Kathryn G. Lamontagne is a Lecturer in the College of General Studies at Boston University, USA.