At a time when there is an increasing interest in women's studies and Victorian social history, this book provides an important insight into both. Here we see women in an age very different from our own, at opposite ends of the social scale - prostitutes, alcoholics, the abused and down trodden who had nowhere to go, and no one to turn to; and the ladies, often from privileged backgrounds, who in the early days of the Tractarian or Oxford Movement became Sisters of Mercy in order to minister to these outcasts.
The background to all this is the Victorian Church of England, which was itself being awakened by the teachings of the Tractarians. We are given a vivid portrait of a church where doctrinal controversy and conflict were commonplace, and where, as in society generally, social class was an important factor. Here we meet men like Gladstone, Archbishop Tait, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and countless clergy famous in their day. But while they have an important place in this book it is the women who take centre stage. Early Religious such as Lydia Sellon, Elizabeth Lockhart, Marion Hughes and Mother Kate of Haggerston all play a part, as do secular women such as Elizabeth Herbert and Catherine Gladstone. Mariquita Tennant, the forgotten pioneer of the rescue work at Clewer is brought out of obscurity. But it is Harriet Monsell, Mother Foundress of the Community of St John Baptist, who became the guiding force at Clewer, and who is the focal point of this book. With strength of character, firmness of faith, an infectious sense of humour, a gift for listening, and a magnetism which none could resist, Harriet Monsell was one of the greatest women of her day.
Only now, in a church which is slowly acknowledging the role of women is their contribution to the work of the Oxford Movement being recognised. Yet it is true to say that Sisterhoods formed the first flowering of that Movement. They not only gave to Victorian women an effective means of mission and ministry, but also restored to English church life an element which had been lost for 300 years.
"A vivid picture of the development of one of the outstanding Anglican Communities of the nineteenth century Harriet Monsell emerges as one of the outstanding figures of the nineteenth century Church of England." A.M. Allchin.
Includes 31 black and white photographs, 304 pages, paperback, indexed.
Price in Sterling £10.95 plus P&P
ISBN No. 0 9508710 2 8
The Community of St John Baptist Publications