Eighteenth century Ireland witnessed an unprecedented rise in the number of female religious communities, some of which expanded and eventually came to dominated the education of girls as well as the social welfare infrastructure of nineteenth century Ireland. While, the lives of some of the women founders such as Nano Nagle and Teresa Mullaly are well know, the financial means through which they established their new religious communities, schools and orphanages has not received the attention that it merits. Both women exploited the informal network of social welfare constructed by wealthy Irish Catholics as an alternative to the state structure which was allied closely with the Protestant Church of Ireland. More interestingly, perhaps, both women came from commercial families and were familiar with the world of business and the ways and means of raising money. Mullaly, for example, successfully bought land in Dublin city centre which she leased in order to establish an income for her fledgling community of Presentation sisters. This paper will explore the ability of these religious women as financial entrepreneurs and examine their success and failures in creating a sound financial base for their new religious order.
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