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Six Months in a Convent

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Wikipedia article

'Six Months in a Convent' is a gothic novel written in 1835 by Rebecca Reed.


Reed described the convent as a prison, where young girls were forced into Catholicism, with grotesque punishment for those who refused. This book, along with a growing number of propaganda magazines including the 'Christian Watchman' and 'Boston Recorder', stoked the fires of anti-Catholicism in Boston and the surrounding area. [http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Six-Months-in-a-Convent/Rebecca-Theresa-Reed/e/9781437078398 Barnes and Noble review]

Circulation prior to publication

Although not published until 1835, some versions of the manuscript apparently circulated among the primarily Protestant student community, and versions of it may have gained wider circulation in Charlestown. Some authors, including a former student at the school, have speculated that discussion of the manuscript may have contributed to the anti-Catholic sentiment which incited the riots.Franchot, 145, citing Whitney, 53.

The author

Rebecca Reed was a young Episcopalian woman from Boston who had attended the school in 1831 as a charity scholar: a day student for whom the convent waived tuition fees. In 1832, she declared her intent to enter the Ursuline novitiate, but left the convent after six months as a postulant (originally one who makes a request or demand, hence a candidate).

Ursuline Convent Riots

Reed's claims inspired an angry mob to burn down the convent, and her narrative, released three years later as the rioters were tried, famously sold 200,000 copies in one month. [http://www.archive.org/stream/sixmonth00moffatt/sixmonth00moffatt_djvu.txt An answer to Six months in a convent, exposing its falsehoods and manifold absurdities]

Maria Monk

Reed's book was soon followed by another bestselling fraudulent expos, 'Awful Disclosures of the Hotel-Dieu Nunnery', (1836) in which Maria Monk claimed that a convent in Montreal served as a harem for Catholic priests, and that any resulting children were murdered after baptism. The tale of Maria Monk was, in fact, clearly modeled on the Gothic novels popular in the early 19th century. This literary genre had already been used for anti-Catholic sentiments in works such as Matthew Lewis' 'The Monk'.


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