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Women, Religion & the Atlantic World, 1600-1800

Women, Religion & the Atlantic World, 1600-1800

Daniella Kostroun
Lisa Vollendorf
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Women, Religion & the Atlantic World, 1600-1800
    Book Description:

    Through a thoughtful consideration of the complexity of the religious landscape of the Atlantic basin, the collection provides an enriching portrayal of the intriguing interplay between religion, gender, ethnicity, and authority in the early modern Atlantic world.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9763-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-28)

    In the early eighteenth century, an African slave named Mariana reportedly spoke to white men ‘with such authority about what she has read in the Bible that they cannot open their mouths against her.’ Through religion, Mariana found the voice and authority to confound European slaveholders with the hypocrisies inherent in the slave system. A few decades earlier, in Mexico City, the elite Creole nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz denounced ‘stupid men’ (‘hombres necios’) for a sexual double standard that judged women harshly. Sor Juana also echoed the Spanish Carmelite Saint Teresa of Avila’s theological writings when she...


    • chapter one Rethinking the Catholic Reformation: The Role of Women
      (pp. 31-59)

      From Lima to Vienna and Montreal to Naples, hundreds of new convents placed walls around tens of thousands of women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These walls have tended to dominate discussion of women’s role in the great expansion of Catholic religious life that occurred in the early modern era. Convent walls loomed especially large in accounts of the Catholic Reformation written in the 1970s and 1980s, when they were commonly depicted as solid edifices erected by male clerics to constrain weak and unruly women and to spare their families the cost of an expensive marriage. A parallel and...

    • chapter two The Religious Lives of Singlewomen in the Anglo-Atlantic World: Quaker Missionaries, Protestant Nuns, and Covert Catholics
      (pp. 60-78)

      In 1673 Richard Allestree, the author of the popular conduct bookThe Ladies Calling,had some words of advice for never-married women, or, as he liked to call them, those ‘calamitous creatures’ who had ‘failed’ to marry. Allestree told these women to ‘addict themselves to the strictest virtue and piety, [so that] they would give the world some cause to believe, ’twas not their necessity, but their choice which kept them unmarried, that they were pre-engaged to a better amour, espoused to the spiritual bridegroom; and this would give them among the soberer sort, at least the reverence and esteem...

    • chapter three Transatlantic Ties: Women’s Writing in Iberia and the Americas
      (pp. 79-112)

      In 1614 Mexican nun Francisca de Miranda (b. late 1500s) claimed she was cured from a near fatal illness by miraculous intervention of the Spanish founder of the Discalced Carmelites, Teresa of Avila (1515–82), who had been dead for twenty-two years.¹ Across the Atlantic, in 1646, the Portuguse Dominican nun Sor Violante do Ceo (1601–93) wrote a poem declaring female friendship more valuable than the ‘silver and gold of Arabia and Potosí.’² A third event takes us back to the Americas: Colombian Poor Clare Gerónima Nava y Saavedra (1669–1727) had a mystical vision of travelling to Asia...


    • chapter four Prophets and Helpers: African American Women and the Rise of Black Christianity in the Age of the Slave Trade
      (pp. 115-135)

      ‘Great Queen!’ It was a most unusual salutation to a letter, and surely the queen of Denmark had never read anything quite like what followed.

      ‘At the time when I lived in Papaa, in Africa, I served the Lord Masu,’ the letter continued. ‘Now I have come into the land of the Whites, and they will not allow me to serve the Lord Jesus. Previously, I did not have any reason to serve Him, but now I do. I am very sad in my heart that the Negro women on St. Thomas are not allowed to serve the Lord Jesus.’...

    • chapter five ‘The Most Resplendent Flower of the Indies’: Making Saints and Constructing Whiteness in Colonial Peru
      (pp. 136-155)

      In 1673 Fray (Brother) Francisco del Risco began secretly to exorcise legions of demonic spirits from his penitent Juana Luisa Benites. Soon, other nuns and residents of the Santa Clara convent on the northern Peruvian coast also were seized by spirits. Alarmed, Lima’s Supreme Tribunal of the Inquisition charged its representative in Trujillo to investigate. The resulting trial document contains testimonies from witnesses, correspondence between inquisitorial officials, and a detailed defence penned by Risco at the request of the Holy Office. By November 1675, inquisitors had dismissed rumours that the convent had been bewitched and turned their focus to the...

    • chapter six Missionary Men and the Global Currency of Female Sanctity
      (pp. 156-179)

      In an important study Jodi Bilinkoff has made a convincing case that the intense relationships between female penitents and male confessors, as well as the hundreds of written hagiographies spawned by these relationships, were key to the emergence, consolidation, and perpetuation of a transatlantic Catholic culture in the early modern period. As clerics offered written documentation of the lives of holy women from the traditional centres of Christianity in Europe to the most contested colonial frontiers in the Americas, they supplied audiences separated by vast geographical and cultural differences with a shared set of Christian values and exemplary lives to...

    • chapter seven Patriarchs, Petitions, and Prayers: Intersections of Gender and Calidad in Colonial Mexico
      (pp. 180-202)

      In 1606, in colonial Mexico, a West African woman named Esperanza appeared of her own volition before the Inquisition to denounce herself for blaspheming.¹ Esperanza testified that more than a year earlier her mistress had been hitting her ‘cruelly,’ causing her to renounce God ‘with the pain of the lashes.’ According to her, her outburst only made her mistress intensify the beating.² Esperanza told the inquisitors that she repented her renunciation, explaining that her sin was involuntary. Her words, she claimed, were provoked by the severe beating her mistress had given her. In response to standard inquisitorial questioning, Esperanza declared...


    • chapter eight Atlantic World Monsters: Monstrous Births and the Politics of Pregnancy in Colonial Guatemala
      (pp. 205-222)

      Historical accounts of strange pregnancies and monstrous births can be found throughout the early modern world, including in Spanish colonial Guatemala, an area that stretched from what is today Chiapas in southern Mexico through much of contemporary Central America. Debates surrounding the interpretation of monstrous births formed a key part of the larger history of reproduction and women’s health in colonial medicine and local healing cultures in Spanish colonial Guatemala. These debates also reflected the increasing political, religious, and medical attention paid to pregnancy, childbirth, and early infant heath by the colonial state. Other issues linked to monstrous births included...

    • chapter nine A Judaizing ‘Old Christian’ Woman and the Mexican Inquisition: The ‘Unusual’ Case of María de Zárate
      (pp. 223-251)

      The inquisitional trial record of María de Zárate, born and raised Christian and arrested in Mexico City in 1656 for being a judaizer, illuminates not exceptional occurrences but rather the lives of average people who, because of their socio-religious standing and the operations of ecclesiastical machinery, became extraordinary. Zárate’s unflagging dedication to her Crypto-Jewish husband and to members of her family in the face of enormous social pressure to distance herself from them seems remarkable. Even under torture, she revealed nothing to incriminate herself or anyone else in her community. Although filtered through the hegemonic, gendered, racialized discourses and methodologies...

    • chapter ten A World of Women and a World of Men? Pueblo Witchcraft in Eighteenth-Century New Mexico
      (pp. 252-274)

      In 1713 Don Lorenzo Coimagea, principal Indian elder of Picuris Pueblo, accused Jerónimo Dirucaca, the native governor of the pueblo, of a number of egregious acts.¹ Coimagea alleged that Dirucaca spoke against the missionary of the pueblo, telling people one day after church that he did not believe anything the priest said but only what his ancestors taught. Dirucaca bragged that he lived in concubinage and no friar or Spanish official had been able to stop him. Finally, he either bewitched or killed a number of people with witchcraft.² Both Coimagea and the other elders of the pueblo felt that...

    • chapter eleven The Maidens, the Monks, and Their Mothers: Patriarchal Authority and Holy Vows in Colonial Lima, 1650–1715
      (pp. 275-302)

      In late March 1681, the summer in Lima was ending and so too were the adolescent dreams of fourteen-year-old María Teresa Saénz. She stood in the candle-lit cathedral, in front of her relieved parents, and longed to run away. What she really wanted for her life was to enter a convent and become a nun, but instead she was exchanging marriage vows with a young man of her mother’s choosing.¹ Two decades before and ten blocks north of the church where María Teresa took her long walk down the aisle, Juan de Chavarre stood in the doorway to the Convento...

  9. Works Cited
    (pp. 303-334)
  10. Index
    (pp. 335-354)