This chapter introduces the laywoman Mary Ward’s struggle with the Catholic Church to create a new type of mixed lay/religious life for women in which women would serve on Catholic mission assisting renegade Catholic priests in the Protestant British Isles in the seventeenth century. Despite some success, Pope Urban VIII shut down Ward’s Institute of English Ladies harshly. Surprisingly, just a few years later, Urban supported Ward’s return to England to work for the faith. The controversy surrounding her efforts opens a window onto the Catholic Church’s and society’s long-term, ongoing process of balancing the intertwined issues of gendered and religious authority. For three centuries, Catholicism was illegal in the British Isles. In the frequent absence of churches, priests, and sacraments, Catholics experimented with gender roles and expanded religious roles for ordinary Catholics in a desperate attempt to save souls. Catholics had time to set limits, loosen them, and face the consequences.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa McClain
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryBoise State UniversityBoiseUSA

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