History of Women in Catholicism

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FIRST CENTURY

Mary Magdalene is a loyal follower of Jesus and prominent in his ministry. Jesus intervenes on her behalf in an argument she has with Peter, according to the Gospel of Thomas.

FIRST CENTURY

Women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb of Jesus. Mary Magdalene brings word of the Resurrection to the male apostles and is thus referred to as "apostle to the apostles" in early Christian writings.

FIRST CENTURY

Several women--the deacon Phoebe, "fellow worker" Prisca, "workers in the Lord" Tryphena and Tryphosa, and "apostle" Junia--are among those Paul refers to in his letter to the Romans.

673

Princess Aethelthryth founds her own monastery and becomes its abbess. Noble women in medieval times could often gain educational parity with men by becoming nuns.

12th century

Female mystic Hildegard of Bingen, abbess of Rupertsberg, is a well-known speaker and scholarly writer. The first universities were forming during her time, but were all male.

1290s

Agnes Blannbekin is a mystic whose symbolic visions include naked nuns and priests dancing in heaven and herself swallowing the foreskin of Christ. Her visions were published--controversially--in the 18th century. …