This article examines the controversy surrounding the publication in 1836 of Maria Monk's Awful Disclosures of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery, a sensational exposé of life in a Montreal convent supposedly written by a former nun. Previous scholarship on the Monk episode has focused principally on anti-Catholic nativism and on the Awful Disclosures' place in the larger genre of antebellum convent tales. This study will provide a new interpretation of the controversy surrounding Monk's book by demonstrating its usefulness for historians seeking to understand how Catholics apprehended their position in the American community. Catholics frequently used the Awful Disclosures to stake a claim as authentic Americans and often inverted anti-Catholic rhetoric to suit their political and social needs. Through their response to the Monk episode, Catholic leaders effectively redeployed anti-Catholic rhetoric to undermine the claims of Monk and her supporters, ultimately forging a distinctive form of Catholic anti-Protestantism and serving with their sectarian foes as partners, perhaps unwittingly, in a common antebellum project of defining and reasserting patriarchy.


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pp. 25-45
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