‘“A delicate hand on the organ”: Music Education and Disability at English convents in Exile’,

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Over the past decade, exiled English convent schools have increasingly been understood as highly influential institutions that actively shaped educational standards for early modern girls. However, little attention has been paid to the role of music education in these schools, and how this aspect of convent education provided pathways to adulthood crucial for English girls with limited marital options. This paper will present new evidence indicating at least three nun organists at exiled English convents - one in Paris, one in Pontoise, and one in Bruges - had some form of disability, namely visual impairments or reduced mobility. It will demonstrate that these three organists attended school at the convent they eventually professed at, and highlight said convent’s institutional financial investment in these girls, either during their time at the school or at the time of their profession as nuns. This demonstration will also highlight the potential for these organists to have crossed paths with each other during their education, as indicated by evidence of cross-school exchange. The paper will then explore a manuscript of notated music used by one of said organists - Mary Roper - during her time at school, and compare the music within to other music manuscripts used by convent school pupils at the same school at the same time. Holistically, this paper will establish these women as examples of how music education at exiled English convents addressed the lack of systematic social care for disabled women in early modern England in ways that benefited them institutionally.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 9 Jun 2023
EventHistory of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland - Roehampton University, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 Jun 20239 Jun 2023


ConferenceHistory of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland
Abbreviated titleH-WRBI
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • baroque
  • early music
  • early modern music
  • Catholicism
  • convents
  • musicology

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