From the mid-1960s, the teaching force in Catholic schools in Ireland that for so long had been composed primarily of members of religious orders began to change as a large number returned to the secular world and recruitment levels dropped rapidly. Concurrently there was an outpouring of order-focused hagiographic works. During the 1980s, a range of related publications by professional historians also appeared. These included books by a group of secular historians and books by those who can be termed religious historians. This paper is a critical review of key works by key scholars in each group. An underlying assumption is that while for the first group the prospering popular religious atmosphere of the period studied and the work of the female religious as part of it constituted a phenomenon to be understood, for the second group this atmosphere and work largely constituted a ‘natural’ state of affairs.