College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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female autonomy, religious women, early modern Catholicism, sacramental vision, marriage


While more and more attention is given to the writing and concerns of English women in the early modern period, one specific group has been overlooked, English Catholic women who became religious sisters in convents on the Continent. These women produced writings detailing their lives, community, and sense of self which are bound up in the larger theological and social debates of the time. In turn, these women were inserted within the larger sacramental vision of early modern Catholicism. This particular vision sustained that marriage and vowed chastity were two valid Christian lifestyles, the latter giving women an opportunity for greater autonomy than their Protestant counterparts. This project explores how religious life was a complement to marriage in the Catholic tradition and what the writings of the religious women in the Benedictine community at Ghent reveal about these women’s identity, spirituality, and sense of self.