The Soul Has No Sex: Feminism and Catholicism in Early-Modern Europe

  • Siep Stuurman


Is Protestantism more conducive to feminism than Catholicism? No historian will deny that the Catholic Church has, for the most part, been a determined opponent of feminist ideas and practices. It cannot be doubted that over the long run of European history feminism has been more successful in Protestant countries than in Catholic ones.1 But is it also true that Catholic religious experiences, sensibilities and ideas are intrinsically resistant to feminism? That would be an extremely rash and dubious generalization, especially when applied to early-modern Europe, for it is well established in the historiography that early-modern feminism began its career in Italy and was especially strong in the French Renaissance and early Enlightenment.2 Prior to the eighteenth century, a large part, perhaps the greater part, of feminist aspirations in Europe were voiced by Catholic women living in a Catholic culture.


Female Voice Religious Theme Catholic Woman Biblical Criticism Pure Mind 
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  1. 1.
    See e. g. Richard J. Evans, The Feminists: Women’s Emancipation Movements in Europe, America and Australasia, ([0-9]+)–([0-9]+) (London etc.: Croom Helm, 1984), 237.Google Scholar
  2. 15.
    See Earl Jeffrey Richards, ‘French Cultural Nationalism and Christian Universalism in the Works of Christine de Pizan’, in Politics, Gender, and Genre: The Political Thought of Christine de Pizan, ed. Margaret Brabant (Boulder: Westview Press, 1992), 75–94, at ([0-9]+)–([0-9]+).Google Scholar
  3. 26.
    See Margaret J. Osler, ed., Atoms, Pneuma, and Tranquillity: Epicurean and Stoic Themes in European Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 5.Google Scholar
  4. 29.
    Lucrezia Marinella, The Nobility and Excellence of Women and the Defects and Vices of Men, ed. & transl. Anne Dunhill, intr. Letizia Panizza (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 39n1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Siep Stuurman 2005

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  • Siep Stuurman

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