The ‘nun’ as narrative: religion, writing and reputation in the life of Mary Francis Cusack

Bridget Harrison*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Mary Francis Cusack (1829–1899) was a prolific writer, historian and publisher, producing over forty books during her life-time. She was a vocal supporter of the Land League, an advocate for female education and an early believer in the Marian apparitions at Knock. She was also, for much of her career, an enclosed nun. Her religious identity was essential to the literary persona which she cultivated throughout her career. Through her books and the press, she relied upon and adapted common tropes associated with women religious in order to give her opinions weight. By doing so she was, perversely, able to write about topics normally off-limits to women religious. Even after converting to Methodism in later life, her identity as a former nun was integral to how she presented herself. Cusack’s fame and success provides a valuable insight into the position and visibility of religious women in nineteenth-century society.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWomen's History Review
Early online date02 Apr 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 02 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • devotional revolution
  • Ireland
  • Knock
  • Margaret Anna Cusack
  • Mary Francis Cusack
  • nineteenth century
  • nun of Kenmare
  • publishing
  • women religious

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • History


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