Women and Self-Sacrifice in the Christian Church

A Cultural History from the First to the Nineteenth Century

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About the Book

By speaking and teaching to women, Jesus Christ violated the religious codes of his time and people. Later, by emphasizing virginity and martyrdom, Christianity gave women their first viable option to marriage. Furthermore, in their relationship with God, women also found an opportunity for significant creative activity. Even so, church leaders succeeded in keeping women in the role of victim, a role to which Christianity added religious significance. Unresolved to this day is the problem of developing a truly feminist theology in a religion that depends upon the symbolism of sacrifice.
This translation of the Italian work Storia laica delle donne religiose examines such topics as sexuality, virginity, martyrdom, mysticism, and women’s involvement in education and aid societies, from the earliest days of the Christian church through Florence Nightingale’s work in the nineteenth century. The author then considers whether the role of sacrificial victim is necessary to society, and the possible implications if the role is universally rejected.

About the Author(s)

Ida Magli is professor emeritus of cultural anthropology at the University of Rome. She lives in Rome, Italy.
Translator Janet Sethre has acted as an interpreter for local government organizations and for correspondents during the Kosovo conflict. She has conducted interviews for Italian national television and organized teacher exchange programs in Europe. A high school English teacher, she lives in Mira, Italy.

Bibliographic Details

Ida Magli
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 310
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014 [2003]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9360-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface     1

CHRISTIANITY: A RELIGION FOR WOMEN

1 The Trauma Inflicted by Jesus: Women Exist     7

2 Women as Christ’s “Males”     36

3 A Grand Invention: Let Us Go Outside the World     67

4 The Religious System of Fashion     89

THE TRAGIC GAME OF MYSTICISM

5 Mysticism and Culture     105

6 A Custom-Made Lover: God     120

7 In Love Until Death     162

8 If This Is a Woman     184

9 Self-Annihilation in Order to Exist     201

RELIGIOUS WOMEN OUT TO CONQUER THE WORLD

10 Acting So As to Exist     225

11 Religious Women Invent the “Welfare State”     237

12 New Martyrs     257

Notes     271

Bibliography     277

Index     285

Book Reviews & Awards

“radical and challenging analysis…Magli provides a very important new voice…impressive scholarship…recommended”—Choice.