This book offers a new perspective on the often-overlooked lives of lay women in the English Roman Catholic Church. Focusing on c.1880-c.1930, a time of dynamism and change in both England and the Church, it posits that the Catholic faith could be a place for expressions of unconventional religiosity and reinterpretations of Catholic ‘womanhood’. The study focuses on four figures who may represent a veritable vanguard of women committed to their Church, their faith, but who behaved in unorthodox if not radical ways. Drawing from privately held collections and numerous archives, the chapters trace the exceptional work and lives of Margaret Fletcher, Maude Petre, Radclyffe Hall and Mabel Batten. A conjunction of the themes of marriage, domesticity, religion, gender, class, conversion, and sexuality informs the discussion of how these women powerfully asserted aspects of their faith while transgressing boundaries traditionally assumed for lay Catholic women. The volume will be of particular interest to scholars of Catholic history, British history, and women’s and gender history.

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