Additionally, it was a commonplace among the social theorists of the time that a religious orientation was necessary to successful reform work, again making sisterhoods an obvious source of workers.
Anglican sisterhoods were quick to make use of the gospel imperative to shake off the taboos forbidding the interaction of virtuous women and prostitutes.
13) In penitentiary sisterhoods, at most one-quarter to one-fifth of the sisters worked directly with penitents (often called Magdalens).
The youngest 'adult' penitent in the casebooks studied was thirteen; she had been incestuously abused; the specialized houses for child victims and children "in moral danger" which several sisterhoods opened in the late Victorian period accepted children as young as eight.
21) That many young domestic servants were raped by their employers or by fellow servants cannot be doubted - the records at Clewer and other Houses of Mercy run by sisterhoods hold the proof.
Most sisterhoods operated a policy of never refusing admission to anyone who requested it, although it was believed that the younger the candidate, the better her chances of success, which the sisters defined as a return to respectability and religious observance, not simply abstention from positive immorality.
30) The sisterhoods shared the general mid-Victorian recognition of the economic basis of prostitution: "We talk of 'fallen women'; but for the far greater number there is no fall.
Another factor was the maintenance of contact with her children, as some sisterhoods ran orphanages as well, and would reunite the family at the end of the course of penitence.
46) Some sisterhoods came to dread the first warm spring days, which could signal a general exodus, but consoled themselves by the hope that the women were the better for their care.
Whilst in the penitentiary, the sisterhoods provided the penitents with housing, food, clothing, medical treatment, education, and training.
57) Women who engaged in illict sex were barred from both; the sisterhoods, with their ideology of spiritual motherhood and mystical family ties, offered a way back into a family structure through a transitional structure, the 'home' of the penitentiary.
Sisterhoods emphasised that the indoctrination given the penitents should initially be rather secular, than religious.