Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns Through Two Millennia

Jo Ann McNamara, Author
Jo Ann McNamara, Author Harvard University Press $35 (768p) ISBN 978-0-674-80984-0
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While the Roman Catholic church has continued to oppose the ordination of women to the priesthood, the history of the church is filled with chronicles of women who have been instrumental in transmitting the religious teachings of the church as well as in performing acts of charity under the auspices of the church. Although women in the church were denied access to positions of religious authority traditionally held by men, many of these women gathered themselves into religious orders where they could express their devotion to God and church through teaching, missionary activity, social activism and prayer. McNamara traces the development of women's pursuit of spiritual fulfillment and religious vocation from the Apostolic Age through the Middle Ages to the modern world. Throughout this wide-ranging narrative, we are introduced to women like Paul's companion, Thecla, who baptised herself in preparation for her martyrdom, and Sister Mary Theresa Kane, who in 1979 publicly petitioned the pope to ordain women. McNamara's fascinating guide through the lives and work of Catholic nuns over the last two thousand years reveals both the successes and failures of these women who have played such significant roles in the history of the Catholic church. (Sept.)
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