Women and Religious Life in Premodern Europe

Ranft, Patricia
Date published: 
January 1998

Religious women have been present in every crucial aspect of Catholic church life: in schools, hospitals, orphanages, missions, social services and monasteries. Most religious orders to which these women belonged carefully preserved the history of their origins and accomplishments, but until now no one has united all of these individual histories into one comprehensive account. In Women and the Religious Life in Premodern Europe, Patricia Ranft synthesizes the most recent research on women religious in chronological order and places these women in the centre of the narrative. Starting with the fourth-century birth of monasticism and continuing until the seventeenth-century birth of the active congregation, Ranft's book puts to rest any lingering doubts about the pivotal role women have played in the development of Western culture and the Roman church. Written with both the scholar and student in mind, this is a long-awaited work that fills a gap in the history of western civilization, in the history of women, and in ecclesiastical history.