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Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns through Two Millennia [Paperback]

By Jo Ann Kay McNamara (Author) & J. A. McNamara (Author)
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Item description for Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns through Two Millennia by Jo Ann Kay McNamara & J. A. McNamara...

SISTERS IN ARMS is the first definitive history of Catholic nuns in the Western world. Unfolding century by century, this epic drama encompasses every period from the dawn of Christianity to the present. "An engrossing and challenging work . . . McNamara gives us a history of women's rights--and the lack of them--by focusing on religious women since the birth of Christ. . . . "--Antonia Fraser, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW.

Publishers Description

Spanning two thousand years of Christian religious women's quest for spiritual and vocational fulfillment, "Sisters in Arms" is the first definitive history of Catholic nuns in the Western world. Unfolding century by century, this epic drama encompasses every period from the dawn of Christianity to the present.

History has until recently minimized the role of nuns over the centuries. In this volume, their rich lives, their work, and their importance to the Church are finally acknowledged. Jo Ann Kay McNamara introduces us to women scholars, mystics, artists, political activists, healers, and teachers--individuals whose religious vocation enabled them to pursue goals beyond traditional gender roles. They range from Thecla, the legendary companion of Paul, who baptized herself in preparation for facing the lions in the Roman arena, to Hildegard of Bingen, whose visions unlocked her extraordinary talents for music, medicine, and moral teaching in the twelfth century. They also include Sister Mary Theresa Kane, who stood before the pope--and an American television audience-in 1979 and urged him to consider the ordination of women.

By entering the convent, McNamara shows, nuns gained a community that allowed them to evolve spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally; but the convent was never a perfect refuge. Women's struggles continued against the male church hierarchy, the broader lay community, and the larger cultural and historical forces of change.

The history of nuns is an important part of the larger story of western women whose gender provoked resistance to their claims to autonomy and power. As we enter the third millennium, this groundbreaking work pays fitting tribute to the sisters who have labored with prayer and service for two thousand years, who have struggled to achieve greater recognition and authority, and who have forged opportunities for all women while holding true to the teachings of the Gospel.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns through Two Millennia by Jo Ann Kay McNamara & J. A. McNamara has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • New York Times - 07/19/1998 page 28

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Harvard University Press
Pages   768
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.19" Width: 6.25" Height: 2.05"
Weight:   2.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 11, 1998
Publisher   Harvard University Press
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0674809858  
ISBN13  9780674809857  

Availability  0 units.

More About Jo Ann Kay McNamara & J. A. McNamara

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! McNamara is Professor of History at Hunter College

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > Church History
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Church Institutions & Organizations
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

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Reviews - What do customers think about Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns through Two Millennia?

Women in Action  Nov 4, 2004
2,000 years of women's contributions (specifically nuns) within Christianity are covered in 644 pages. It is not an easy task or even plausible to cover every single detail, but McNamara did a great job in portraying a wide spectrum of experiences. Whenever we look at the history of any subject, one book is never enough. But Sisters in Arms is a definitive book that should be included by anyone interested in the history of women within Christianity. Both the good and the bad come out in this book; there is no battle over the sexes in this book. Women are portrayed from different parts of the world with different experiences. It is amazing and inspiring to see the obstacles in the way of these women and how they dealt with them. It is an insult to claim that talking about the horrors of history is only a person whining with no reason (No Jew would take such criticism if someone would degrade all the suffering they have gone through for over 4,000 years and no woman should either). This book is a fresh reminder of the hopes, suffering and accomplishments that celibate women have shared with the world for over 2,000 years.
A valuable resource where few exist...  Jan 12, 2003
One of the only books available to provide an overview of the orders from beginning to recent times. Readers are likely to be surprised by the diversity of the early orders, and the range of growth and the transitions they have made over the centuries. The majority of the text describes the development of the orders, providing fascinating insight to some of the practises that have come and gone over the years. Detailing social culture that surrounded the convents as well as the communities within the convents, it provides context to the lives of the nuns. This book may not present the ideally framed version of history many would like to see, especially if you're pursuing some notion of blissful cloistered weak women protected by the Church. Politics aside, this is a compelling view into the lives of women through the centuries who have exhibited strength in their dedication to their ideals with or without the aid of men.
Very narrow presentation  Oct 8, 2000
The author cannot be faulted for research, but the presentation is focussed entirely on such "male oppression" as nuns endured. Anyone looking for compelling spirituality, a full look at the incredible achievements of religious in any century, or even recognition of the fact that the professional and educational achievements of religious Sisters far exceeded that which other women could begin to hope for in recent centuries will be disappointed.

It is unbalanced, rather dismal, and not likely to appeal to anyone unless her philosophy of religious life is entirely one of a fight between the sexes.


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