Academic journal article Magistra

The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Stpry of a Medieval Women's Movement

Academic journal article Magistra

The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Stpry of a Medieval Women's Movement

Article excerpt

The Wisdom of the Beguines: the Forgotten Stpry of a Medieval Women's Movement, by Laura Swan, OSB. BlueBridge Books, 2014. 26 pp., $16.95 (hardcover), ISBN 978-1-933346-97-7.

The book editor of Magistra is herself the author of a valuable new resource in women's religious history. This is a comprehensive introduction to the many faces of the beguine movement, but it is not strictly about the few well-known communities of the Low Countries.

Sister Laura gives a concise and informative overview of the many ways in which women were organizing themselves, or participating individually, in the twelfth century vita apostólica movement. Women from Clare of Assisi to Frances of Rome, though later to be identified with the traditional Franciscan and Benedictine orders, were acting from the same impulse to be independent women using their assets to serve the poor in a lifestyle not characterized by vows or cloister. The author gives examples from across Europe, also noting the variety of names other than "beguine" by which these women were known.

She proceeds to give a vivid description of the buildings, especially beguinages as self-contained villages, and the works and economies of these groups. …

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