Lot's Wife in the Novels of Mary Anne Sadlier


  • Janelle Peters Emory University




Mary Anne Sadlier, Irish American Catholic literature, biblical reception history, Lot’s wife


The biblical figure of Lot’s wife in the novels of Mary Anne Sadlier functions typologically, assigning the role of Lot’s wife to both men and women. This essay explores how such an interpretative move functioned to reverse the charges leveled against Catholic men by muscular Christianity and Catholic women by the Protestant Cult of True Womanhood. Sadlier’s audience was the burgeoning Irish American immigrant community, but the ethnically porous character of Sadlier’s sources of inspiration for that community might be attested by her family’s Catholic catechetical publishing company’s reprint of Cardinal Wiseman’s Fabiola in the United States a mere two years after its initial publication in Britain and by her numerous translations from the French. The choice of a typological figure with a widely acknowledged perceived historical basis helped Sadlier to navigate between progressive and conservative Catholic biblical interpretation contemporary to her writing. Typology also facilitated Sadlier’s participation in the Catholic polemics against anti-Catholic, nativist literature by assimilating a negative biblical exemplar to biblically devoted Protestants.

Author Biography

Janelle Peters, Emory University

Doctoral Candidate, Institute of the Liberal Arts


Allitt, Patrick. 1995. “American Women Converts and Catholic Intellectual Life.” U.S. Catholic Historian 13: 57–79.

Baur, Ferdinand Christian. 1853. Das Christentum und die christliche Kirche der drei ersten Jahrhunderte. Tübingen: Fues.

Beetham, Margaret. 2001. “Women and the Consumption of Print.” In Women and Literature in Britain: 1800–1900, edited by Joanne Shattock, 55–77. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bell, Currier. 1869. Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. London: Smith, Elder.

Bilston, Sarah. 2004. The Awkward Age in Women’s Popular Fiction, 1850–1900: Girls and the Transition to Womanhood. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Bingham, Joseph. 1708-1722. Origines Ecclesiasticae. 10 vols. London: Robert Knaplock.

Blackgown, Eli. 1841. “Chapter 11: Memoirs of An Italian Exile.” Metropolitan Magazine 31: 189–204.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans¬lated by Richard Nice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Burke, Ronald. 1980. “Loisy’s Faith: Landshift in Catholic Thought.” The Journal of Religion 60: 138–164. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/486774

Carolsfeld, Julius Schnorr von. 1853. Depiction of Lot and his Family Leaving Sodom as the City Burns in the Background; Lot’s Wife Looks Back. Leipzig: Georg Wigand’s Verlang. Pitts Theology Library Digital Image Archive. http://www.pitts.emory.edu/woodcuts/1853BiblD/00011373.pdf. Accessed 10 December 2010.

Clark, Alfred. 1896. The Finding of Lot’s Wife. London: Stokes.

Clark, Elizabeth A. 2009. “Contested Bodies: Early Christian Asceticism and Nineteenth-Century Polemics.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 17: 281–307. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/earl.0.0252

Crawford, Charlotte E. 1950. “Newman’s Callista and the Catholic Popular Library.” The Modern Language Review 45: 219–221. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3719440

D’Angelo, Mary Rose. 1990. “Women in Luke-Acts: A Redactional View.” Journal of Biblical Literature 109: 441–461. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3267051

Dorman, Susann. 1979. “Hypatia and Callista: The Initial Skirmish between Kingsley and Newman.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 34: 173–193. http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/ncl.1979.34.2.99p0084p

Fanning, Charles. 2000. The Irish Voice in America: 250 Years of Irish-American Fiction. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press.

Feldman, Louis H. 2004. “Remember Amalek!”: Vengeance, Zealotry, and Group Destruction in the Bible According to Philo, Pseudo-Philo, and Josephus. New York: Hebrew Union College.

Fleury, Claude. 1844. The Ecclesiastical History of L’Abbé Fleury, from A.D. 429 to A.D. 456. Trans. John Henry Cardinal Newman. London: J. H. Parker.

Flinders, Anne. 1842. Confessions of an Apostate. London: Seeley.

Fogarty, Gerald P. 1989. “Biblical Scholarship and the Catholic University of America.” Theological Studies 50: 219–242.

Foucault, Michel. 1975. Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison. Paris: Gallimard.

Fox, James J. 1905. “A Catholic and the Bible.” Catholic World 80: 780–793.

Francis, Ford O. 1969. “Eschatology and History in Luke-Acts.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 37: 49–63. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/XXXVII.1.49

Frawley, Maria H. 2004. Invalidism and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press.

Fullerton, Lady Georgiana. 1855. St. Frances of Rome, of Blessed Lucy of Narni, of Dominica of Paradiso, and of Anne de Montmorency. London: Burns and Lambert.

“German Glossaries, Homilies, and Commentaries.” 1878. Catholic World 27: 259–271.

Goldhill, Simon. 2011. Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity: Art, Opera, Fiction, and the Proclamation of Modernity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Harper, William R., and George S. Goodspeed. 1890. “Studies XXXVII and XXXVIII: Closing Journeys and Teachings in Perea. Luke 17:11–18:30.” The Old and New Testament Student 11: 168–172. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/470566

Harries, Martin. 2007. Forgetting Lot’s Wife: On Destructive Spectatorship. New York: Fordham University Press.

Harrison, Anthony. 1988. Christina Rossetti in Context. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Hernadi, Liz Szabo. 2001. “Mary Anne Sadlier’s Advice for Irish Catholic Girls.” In Religions of the United States in Practice, edited by Colleen McDannell, 197–217. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Hill, Harvey. 2003. “Leo XIII, Loisy, and the ‘Broad School’: An Early Round of the Modernist Crisis.” The Catholic Historical Review 89: 39–59. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/cat.2003.0067

Howes, Marjorie. 2005. “Discipline, Sentiment, and the Irish-American Public: Mary Ann Sadlier’s Popular Fiction.” Éire-Ireland 40: 140–169. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eir.2005.0005

Hurst, Isobel. 2006. Victorian Women Writers and the Classics: the Feminine of Homer. Oxford: Oxford University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199283514.001.0001

Jay, Elisabeth. 2001. “Women Writers and Religion.” In Women and Literature in Britain: 1800-1900, edited by Joanne Shattock, 251–274. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 2004. “Why ‘Remember Lot’s Wife?’: Religious Identity and the Literary Canon.” In Literary Canons and Religious Identity, edited by Bart Philipsen, Erik Borgman, and Lea Verstricht, 33–50. Surrey: Ashgate.

Keller, Helen. 1913. Out of the Dark: Essays, Letters, and Addresses on Physical and Social Vision. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Kenny, Kevin. 2000. The American Irish: A History. London: Pearson.

King, Jason. 2006. “The Feminization of the Canadian Frontier: Engendering the ‘Peaceable Kingdom’ Myth in the Writings of Mary Anne Sadlier (1820–1913) and Isabella Valancy Crawford (1850-1887).” The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 32: 46–55. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/25515616

Kingsley, Charles. 1853. Hypatia: New Foes with Old Faces, 2 vols. London: John W. Parker and Son.

Kite, Elizabeth. N.d. A Conversion Story: From Quakerism to the Catholic Church. Unpublished typescript. Kite Papers, Rutgers University Archives 3.

Kortsch, Christine Bayles. 2009. Dress Culture in Late Victorian Women’s Fiction: Literacy, Textiles, and Activism. Surrey: Ashgate.

Lacombe, Michele. 1984. “Frying Pans and Deadlier Weapons: The Immigrant Novels of Mary Anne Sadlier.” Essays on Canadian Writing 29: 96–116.

Ledegang, F. 2001. Mysterium Ecclesiae: Images of the Church and its Members in Origen. Leuven: Peeters.

Lysack, Krista. 1998. “The Economics of Ecstasy in Christina Rossetti’s Monna Innominata.” Victorian Poetry 36: 399–416.

Maas, Anthony J. 1893. “Adam’s Rib—Allegory or History.” American Ecclesiastical Review 9: 88–102.

Makujina, John. 1998. “The ‘Trouble’ With Lot in 2 Peter: Locating Peter’s Source for Lot’s Torment.” Westminster Theological Journal 60: 255–269.

McDannell, Colleen. 1986a. The Christian Home in Victorian America, 1840–1900. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
———. 1986b. “True Men as We Need Them: Catholicism and the Irish Male.” American Studies 27: 19–36.

———. 1989. “‘The Devil Was the First Protestant’: Gender and Intolerance in Irish Catholic Fiction.” U.S. Catholic Historian 8: 51–65.

McGee, Thomas D’Arcy. 1861. Sebastian; or, the Roman Martyr. New York: D. & J. Sadlier.

Monk, Maria. 1836. Awful Disclosures of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery of Montreal. New York: Maria Monk.

Newman, John Henry Cardinal. 1845. An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. London: James Toovey.

———. 1855. Callista: A Sketch of the Third Century. London: Burns and Oates.

Neyrey, Jerome H. 1994. 2 Peter, Jude: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

O’Gorman, Edith. 1871. Trials and Persecutions of Miss Edith O’Gorman, Otherwise Sister Teresa de Changal. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Publishing Company.

Osiek, Carolyn. 2006. “Catholic or Catholic? Biblical Scholarship at the Center.” Journal of Biblical Literature 125: 5–22. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/27638344

Parkins, Wendy. 2009. Mobility and Modernity in Women’s Novels, 1850s–1930s: Women Moving Dangerously. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Reade, Charles. The Cloister and the Hearth. London: Everyman’s Library.

Reed, Annette Yoshiko. 2005. Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Reed, Rebecca. 1834. Six Months in a Convent. Boston, MA: Russell, Odiorne, and Metcalf. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511499104

Rossetti, Christina. 1986. The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti, edited by Rebecca Crump. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

———. 1892. The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse. London: SPCK.

Sadlier, Mary Anne. 1850a. Red Hand of Ulster. New York: Patrick Donahoe.

———. 1850b. Willy Burke: or, the Irish Orphan in America. New York: D. & J. Sadlier.

———. 1853. New Lights; or, Life in Galway. New York: D. & J. Sadlier.

———. 1861. Bessy Conway; or, The Irish Girl in America. New York: D. & J. Sadlier.

———. 1862. Old and New; or, Taste Versus Fashion. New York: D. & J. Sadlier.

———. 1864. Confessions of an Apostate. New York: D. & J. Sadlier.

———. 1866. Aunt Honor’s Keepsake: A Chapter from Life. New York: D. & J. Sadlier.

———. 1885. Purgatory: Doctrinal, Historical, and Poetical. New York: D. & J. Sadlier.

Showalter, Elaine. 1977. A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Sister Agatha. 1881. Confessions of a Nun. Philadelphia, PA: Jordan.

Tanis, Bethany. 2008. “Diverging Paths: Fin-de-Siècle Britishness and the Oxford Movement.” Anglican and Episcopal History 77: 287–317.

Vitanza, Dianna. 1986. “The Cloister and the Hearth: A Popular Response to the Oxford Movement.” Religion and Literature 18: 71–88.

Wallace, Lew. 1880. Ben Hur. New York: Harper and Brothers.

Whitla, William. 1987. “Questioning the Convention: Christina Rossetti’s Sonnet Sequence ‘Monna Innominata’.” In The Achievement of Christina Rossetti, edited by David A. Kent, 82–131. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Wiseman, Cardinal. 1854. Fabiola; or the Church of the Catacombs. London: Burns and Lambert.

Wright, Julia McNair. 1868. Almost a Nun. Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian Publication Committee.

Zonana, Joyce. 1993. “The Sultan and the Slave: Feminist Orientalism and the Structure of Jane Eyre.” Signs 18: 592–671. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/494821



How to Cite

Peters, J. (2011). Lot’s Wife in the Novels of Mary Anne Sadlier. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 5(2), 185–204. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.v5i2.185