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Women and Faith

Women and Faith

Catholic Religious Life in Italy from Late Antiquity to the Present

Edited by Lucetta Scaraffia and Gabriella Zarri
Translated by Keith Botsford

ISBN 9780674954786

Publication date: 11/01/1999

Feminist thought has wrestled with the question of whether religion has been principally responsible for the oppression of women or instead has provided access to culture, public life, and--sometimes--power. This study of Italian women and Catholicism from the fourth through the twentieth century reflects this conflict and the tension between the masculine character of divinity in the Catholic Church and the potential for equality in the gospels and early writings ("neither male nor female, but one in Jesus").

The various chapters in this book consider the institutions within which religious women lived, many of which they themselves founded or reorganized. In addition to overviews of women and the religious life throughout the periods under study, specific chapters focus on mystical marriage, religious writings by women, secular writings by nuns, women in sacred images, women in the nineteenth-century Christian family, Marian pilgrimages, and depictions of sisters and saints in film. The authors, leading American, Italian, and French scholars, have drawn on rich resources to provide a panorama of sixteen centuries of Italian history, religious history, and women's history.


  • These thought-provoking essays explore the rewards, ambiguities, and contradictions experienced by women in their relationship with Christian spirituality and the Catholic Church from late antiquity to the twentieth century. Virtually all the essays are excellent, some are a real tour de force. This book will have a wide audience among those interested in the history of women and the history of religion.

    —Judith C. Brown, Rice University


  • Lucetta Scaraffia is Preceptor in Modern History, University of Rome.
  • Gabriella Zarri is Professor of Modern History, University of Florence.

Book Details

  • 432 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press