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Contested Identities : Catholic Women Religious in Nineteenth-Century England and Wales, by Carmen M. Mangion

Heimann, Mary (2009) Contested Identities : Catholic Women Religious in Nineteenth-Century England and Wales, by Carmen M. Mangion. [Review]

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This well-researched and densely packed scholarly study, developed from the author's doctoral thesis, does at least two important things. First—and, in this reviewer's opinion, successfully—it systematically uncovers, analyses and describes the internal workings of a large sample of Catholic women's religious communities in Victorian England, looking at such distinct aspects as women's motivations for entering a convent; the experience of the novitiate; class and ethnic tensions; and tussles over authority and governance. Following in the footsteps of Susan O’Brien, and drawing upon a wide range of diocesan and congregational archival materials, Carmen Mangion adds usefully to our knowledge of nineteenth-century English Catholic convents, outlining procedures, clarifying definitions and tabulating congregational growth. This aspect alone makes her book a valuable contribution to the field of English Catholic history.