The religious institute of the Working sisters of the Holy house of Nazareth was founded by don Arcangelo Tadini in 1900, and was inspired by the Rerum novarum. Scholars have devoted but scant attention to this case-study, despite the fact that it had a rather unusual purpose for a female congregation: namely, that of reaching female workers by sharing their activities in the workplace and supporting them with a specific apostolate. The approval of the order was very slow both at the diocesan and the pontifical level, especially because of the discrepancy between the congregation’s purpose and the Catholic Church’s social teaching, which considered female non-domestic work as one of the main reasons for family destabilization. This article examines the factory experience of the Working Sisters in Padua between the 1970s and the 1980s, by intersecting women’s history, the history of Christianity, and labor history. It draws on the oral and written testimonies of six nuns. These sources testify to the specificity of women’s working experience, compared to the experience of chaplains of work or working priests. They also reveal aspects yet unknown, especially concerning the relationship between the Church and labor, also from a gender perspective.
Keywords: Working sisters, Catholic social teaching, Women’s history, History of christian religion, Labour history, Oral histories