Noble Daughters: Unheralded Women in Western Christianity, 13th to 18th Centuries

Noble Daughters: Unheralded Women in Western Christianity, 13th to 18th Centuries

Noble Daughters: Unheralded Women in Western Christianity, 13th to 18th Centuries

Noble Daughters: Unheralded Women in Western Christianity, 13th to 18th Centuries

Synopsis

The history of Western Christianity, written predominantly from a male perspective, has often ignored women's stories and their unique contributions to both Church and society. Unlike the virgins and martyrs who are named in the official list of the Church's saints, the beguines, Anabaptists, so-called witches, and nuns of Port-Royal have gone largely unrecognized. Their stories, as presented in this one volume, explore the underside of history and challenge support of a strictly hierarchical Church. These four groups of women represent disparate approaches to a Christian commitment, but they share an intense devotion to their understanding of the gospel message. Their willingness to adhere to their beliefs brought them into conflict with ecclesiastical and civil authority. Often, these women sacrificed their lives; all of them refuted the stereotype of a passive female church member. These women's stories unfold within the complex picture of medieval Europe, but their beliefs and struggles offermodels of Christian living relevant to today.

Excerpt

Several years ago, when I first began to think seriously about the project that eventually became this book. I shared my idea with F. Ellen Weaver, a former colleague at Notre Dame and the leading American authority on the nuns of the monastery of Port-Royal in Paris. Ellen wished me well, but observed that the women of Port-Royal "didn't fit" with the other groups I intended to include. Although I took her comment seriously, I decided to plunge in and let the research make the decision. My conclusion was that these four groups of women did indeed "fit" together, not because their experiences were exactly similar, but because they envisioned a particular way of living a Christian life and remained true to that vision in the face of daunting obstacles and opposition.

Thanks are due in a special way to Cathy Lavin, a friend for many years, who spent precious hours reading, critiquing, and supporting; to Regis Duffy, OFM, my mentor at Notre Dame, who never stopped believing in me; to Carol Consorto, the intrepid handler of interlibrary loan requests at Chestnut Hill College, without whom I would have faced formidable obstacles myself; to Pamela St. Clair and Elizabeth Meagher, editors at Greenwood Press, both of whom have been understanding of unforeseen delays; and, most of all, to the women who inspired me with their lives and stories, the women you will meet in these pages.

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