Something borrowed: Women, Limerick lace and community heirlooms in the Australian Irish diaspora

Sophie Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using the Limerick lace veil as a case study, this article argues that Irish female religious orders used Catholic materiality to maintain connections between former students and the wider Irish Catholic community within Australia. The ownership, manufacture and consumption of Limerick lace was predominantly shaped by women in Ireland and in Australia. Fashion provided a particularly feminine way of engaging with ethnic identity, separate from the male-dominated pulpit and the clubs of ethnic associational culture. By moving our focus to fashion choices, we can shift our exploration of religious and social power in the Irish Catholic Church to encompass more fully the diverse influences on ethnic and religious identity creation. Examining the practices of religious orders and how they engaged with the material culture of faith and ethnicity, this article presents a new perspective on the Irish Catholic diaspora which is currently missing from scholarship on the ‘spiritual empire’ during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-327
Number of pages25
JournalSocial History
Issue number3
Early online date6 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Aug 2020


  • Australia
  • women religious
  • Ireland
  • social history
  • material culture
  • women
  • Irish diaspora
  • education
  • veil


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