Presentation Convent and Primary School, Waterford (1798-2005): history, voice and experience of former teaching sisters, lay teachers and pupils

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Tobin, Angela
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University College Cork
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The arrival of three Presentation Sisters in Waterford in 1798 marked the beginning of the first school for girls in the city. For more than two hundred years, and over three locations, they established and managed their schools, before the closure of the Pugin-designed convent building in 2005. The first part of this doctoral study traces the history of the Presentation Order in Waterford over the period, with specific reference to their contribution to female education. It draws on research material gathered from a number of archival sources, both public and private. The second part of the research gives a voice to three relevant participant groups who inhabited this space- former teaching women religious, former lay teacher colleagues and former pupils. Four research questions framed the study: 1. What is known of the history of the Presentation Order in Waterford from 1798 to 2005? 2. How was life experienced in the convent setting at the heart of the study? 3. How was life experienced in the adjoining primary school, and to what extent did convent life impact on school life? 4. What legacy, if any, would participants consider present in the school today, in the wake of the physical departure of the women religious from active participation in everyday school life? To address these questions, the case study approach as advocated by Yin (2003) was adopted. Data gathered from semi-structured oral history interviews was analysed using Grounded Theory techniques of data analysis as advocated by Glaser and Strauss (1967). Three themes subsequently emerged from this analysis, namely identity, power and care. These in turn were viewed through the theoretical lens Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault. Bourdieuian concepts, of field, habitus and forms of capital were used to illuminate our understanding of convent life, while Foucauldian techniques for the production of ‘docile’ bodies and self-regulating entities assist our understanding of power at the various levels. The productive nature of these theories, however, together with Nel Nodding’s theory of care, can inform our understanding of the final recurring theme- care on a variety of levels. This doctoral study took place against the backdrop of the ongoing educational debate surrounding changing models of school patronage in Ireland. For many years, the sight of a teaching woman religious was a familiar part of the educational landscape. This image is now rapidly fading from popular memory. The study therefore looks back in time and acknowledges the contribution made to education, before embracing the changes to come in the years ahead.
Voice , Presentation Convent Waterford , History , Experience , Presentation Primary School Waterford , Women religious
Tobin, A. 2018. Presentation Convent and Primary School, Waterford (1798-2005): history, voice and experience of former teaching sisters, lay teachers and pupils. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.