Category Archives: News and Events

The Other Sister at the MAA Annual Meeting

The Other Sister will soon be introduced to a wider audience at this year’s annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America, which will take place March 14–16 at the University of Notre Dame.

A panel entitled The Other Sister: Recognizing Non-Cloistered Religious Women in the Middle Ages will occur on Friday, March 15 at 8:30–10 am in DeBartolo Hall 217.

Fiona Griffiths (Stanford University) will serve as chair, and the following papers will be presented:

Tanya Stabler Miller (Loyola University Chicago): “Mary and/or Martha: Framing Beguine Labor in Medieval France”

Meghan Lescault (University of Toronto): “Subject to Interpretation: The Ambiguous Position of the Chapter of Nivelles in Canon Law”

Ashley Tickle Odebiyi (Arizona State University): “Beyond Clare and Catherine: Lay Penitents in Late Medieval Italy”

Registration for the conference closes February 16.

Sad News – Fr. Mike Blastic

It is with great sadness that we must announce the passing of Michael W. Blastic, OFM, a valued member of our community.

A renowned scholar of the Franciscan tradition, Fr. Blastic (1949-2023), Mike for most, served as colleague, mentor, confrère, and teacher, and was thought of with both affection and admiration. For his 70th birthday, Fr. Blastic’s confrères edited a volume, “Non enim fuerat Evangelii surdus auditor… The title was chosen as it reflected Fr. Blastic’s commitment to living the gospel, as illustrated by his scholarship and pastoral ministry.

Mike attended many of our Other Sister virtual meetings including the last one (Dec. 2023). He saw women, particularly Clare of Assisi, as active participants in intellectual, theological and social history, and his work did much for bringing this into mainstream Franciscan dialogue.

A celebration of Fr. Blastic’s life will take place at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in San Diego on January 8, 2024. It is also possible to attend online.

He will be missed by all who knew him.

The Other Sister 2023 Conference

By Meghan Lescault

Scintillating conversation from morning until night, high levels of intellectual synergy, and an aura of enthusiastic camaraderie. While this may sound like a scholarly daydream rather than an ordinary academic conference, this was in fact the reality of The Other Sister’s 2023 first international conference, which took place on the campus of the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto from May 18 to 20. The conference entitled “The Other Sister: New Research on Non-Cloistered Religious Women (1100–1800)” was organized by Prof. Isabelle Cochelin (University of Toronto), Prof. Alison More (University of St. Michael’s College and University of Toronto), Prof. Mary Harvey Doyno (California State University, Sacramento), Dr. Patricia Stoop (Universiteit Antwerpen), and graduate students Joseph Akl, Emma Gabe, Meghan Lescault, and Laura Moncion (University of Toronto). It showcased important research about the many groups of women and individual women who have traditionally received far too little scholarly attention despite their prominence in the medieval and early modern worlds. The need for greater emphasis on this topic was made evident by the numbers of eager participants. Between attendance in person and on Zoom, there were somewhere from 50 to 100+ people present at all times, with the number usually falling on the higher end of the spectrum.

Over the course of the three days, 25 scholars from 9 different countries and all levels of academia, from MA students to professors emeriti, presented papers concerning non-cloistered religious women. The speakers offered precise insights into specific aspects of these women’s lives, while the papers taken together provided a broad thematic perspective that transcended geographic and temporal boundaries. Through the papers, both individually and together, participants were invited into a deeper understanding of non-cloistered religious women and their many important religious and social roles. In the final session of the conference, Prof. John Van Engen (University of Notre Dame) tied together the major themes of the papers and challenged participants to continue to ponder the broad questions that had arisen.

Most of the speakers and some in-person attendees of The Other Sister 2023 conference

Each session was followed by a robust discussion in which connections were made, collaborations were forged, and even friendly debate was held. While the participants specialize in different non-cloistered women and can often find themselves working on their separate topics in isolation, this conference provided the opportunity to exchange ideas, resources, and methodologies related to a shared interest. At least two speakers described their sessions as a unique chance to speak to their bibliographies. This palpable synergy powered the conference and did not stop even when the clock did. Outside of the formal sessions, participants eagerly conversed during meals and coffee breaks. Even when there was no official dinner organized, the attendees formed plans to go out together and extend the conversations for hours. 

Between the fascinating academic presentations and the lively spirit of collaboration, it is no wonder why at least five speakers have reported this to be the best conference of their careers. As the many “networks” of the other sisters were a recurring theme of the conference, it is only fitting that there exists an academic network devoted entirely to them. This network’s conference was a great success and hopefully only the first of many more to come.

Participants eagerly discussing research on non-cloistered religious women

2023 International Conference

The Other Sister: New Research on Non-Cloistered Religious Women (1100-1800)


St Michael’s College. University of Toronto

May 18–20, 2023

You can find a summary of the conference here.

Mary and other young women in the Temple (1325-1350), Johannes de Caulibus, Meditatione de la uita del nostro Signore Ihesu Christo, Paris, BnF, Ital 115, f.7v.

Throughout Christian history, there have been groups of women who lived recognizably religious lives but outside of traditional monastic structures. Despite leaving a substantial documentary and (in some cases) visual record, they are conspicuously absent from the dominant scholarly tradition. By defining and contextualizing the experiences of these women, we can begin to understand the ways they fit into the ecclesiastical and lay landscape of the worlds in which they lived. Our conference focuses on new research on non-cloistered women religious including (but not limited to) beguines, bizzoche, tertiaries, pinzochere, canonesses, and house ascetics. By looking beyond the limitations generally imposed by geography or time period, we can begin to think of the connections that existed between these women and society, cloistered nuns, or clerics. 

This conference is a collaborative and international endeavour with, besides the University of Toronto team of The Other Sister (Isabelle Cochelin, Alison More and graduate students Joseph Akl, Emma Gabe, Meghan Lescault and Laura Moncion), Professors Mary Doyno (California State University Sacramento) and Patricia Stoop (University of Antwerp).

Detail from Mechelen’s beguines at work (17th cent.). Museum Hof van Busleyden (Mechelen, Belgium).

The conference will take place at the University of Toronto, in person, May 18–20, 2023. Those who cannot be present in Toronto on these days may attend the conference virtually and ask questions through chat. In order to attend the conference via Zoom or in person, please email us at

May 18th

10:30 am Welcome

Augustine Thompson, PIMS Praeses

Alison More (St Michael’s College, University of Toronto) and Isabelle Cochelin (University of Toronto)

11am-12:30pm Interactions with the Church I – Session 1 : the Frederick Charles Furlong Memorial Lecture

Melissa Moreton (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton), Romite del Ponte: Pinzochere, Anchorites, and Spiritual Women on Florence’s Ponte alle Grazie

Tanya Stabler Miller (Loyola University, Chicago), The Beguinage of Cantimpré: A Sponsored Emergence

Meghan Lescault (University of Toronto), Appealing to a Higher Power: Episcopal Interventions in the Conflicts of Nivelles

Lunch 12:30-2pm

2-3pm Interactions with the Church II – Session 2

Ashley Tickle Odebiyi (Arizona State University), Partners not Servants: The Religious Networks of Fifteenth-Century Roman Bizzoche

Sarah Joan Moran (independent scholar), Reforming the Low Countries: The Beguines, the Clerics, and the Archduchess Isabella

Coffee 3-3:30pm

3:30-5pm Their Voices – Session 3

Michael Hahn (Sarum College, Salisbury), Angela of Foligno within Franciscan (mystical-)theological genealogies

Mary Harvey Doyno (California State University, Sacramento), Shout-Outs to the Friars: Catherine of Siena’s Daughters and the Search for Institutional Identity

Silvia Giovanardi Byer (Park University, Parkville, MO), Mystical Journeys in Post-Tridentine Italy: Caterina Paluzzi’s Laborious Writings

Detail from Mechelen’s beguines at work (17th cent.). Museum Hof van Busleyden (Mechelen, Belgium).

May 19th

9:30-11am Dissidence – Session 4

Courtney Barter-Colcord (Princeton University), Woman as Savior: Guglielma of Milan, Na Prous Boneta, and the Holy Spirit Incarnate

Delfi Nieto-Isabel (Queen Mary University, London), Central Outliers: Women, Intellectual Contributions and Beguinal Dissident Networks in the Fourteenth-Century Mediterranean

Joseph George Akl and Isabelle Cochelin (University of Toronto), Sisters to Sister: New Perspectives on the Painting Mechelen’s Beguines at Work (Museum Hof van Busleyden, Mechelen, 17th Century)

11-11:30am Coffee

11:30am-12:30pm Liturgy – Session 5

Samantha Slaubaugh (University of Notre Dame), Teaching the Liturgy through Ecstasy: Douceline of Digne’s Vida as Liturgical Source

Katherine Clark Walter (SUNY Brockport), Pious Widowhood in Text and Image: Widows’ Consecrations in Illuminated Pontificals of the Later Middle Ages

Lunch 12:30-2pm

2-3pm The Lower-Status Ones – Session 6

Kate Bush (College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA), Ut pedissequa ministrare: Service and Serving Sisters in Early Clarissan Hagiography

Kim Main (University of Toronto), “Among the Number of His Spouses”: Ursuline Converse Nuns in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Quebec

Coffee 3-3:30pm

3:30-5pm Production and Transmission of Knowledge – Session 7

Patricia Stoop (Universiteit Antwerpen), Non-Cloistered Religious Women and their Contributions to Literary Culture in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Low Countries

Kathryn Kerby-Fulton (University of Notre Dame), Not So Silent After All: Anchoresses and Other Sisters in the Virtual Intellectual Communities of Medieval Oxford

Sergi Sancho Fibla (Università degli Studi di Padova), Women, religion and education: types of sources and perspectives of study (Southern Europe, 14th-15th Centuries)

Detail from Mechelen’s beguines at work (17th cent.). Museum Hof van Busleyden (Mechelen, Belgium).

May 20th

10-11am In Hagiographical Sources – Session 8

Alicia Smith (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto), Harlots and Hermits: Thais as Intertext for Twelfth-Century Eremitic Experiments

Laura Moncion (University of Toronto), A Recluse in New France: The Life of Jeanne Le Ber (1662-1714)

Coffee 11-11:30am

11:30am-12:30pm Problems of Definition, Questions of identity – Session 9

Fiona Griffiths (Stanford University), Clerics’ Wives as “Other” Sisters

Michelle M. Sauer (University of North Dakota), Noble Women Attached to the Minoresses in England

Lunch 12:30-2pm

2-3:30pm (Non-)Enclosing – Session 10

Alison Beach (University of Saint Andrew’s), Hermits, Inclusae, and Other Freelancers:  Women in Germany’s Apostolic Awakening (11th-12th Centuries)

Letha Böhringer (Universität zu Köln), The Beguines of Cologne, a Social History

Adrian Kammerer (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen), An Order and its Consequences: Effects of the Dominican Third Rule on Non-Cloistered Religious Women

Coffee 3:30-4pm

4-5pm Conclusion by John Van Engen (University of Notre Dame)

Detail from Mechelen’s beguines at work (17th cent.). Museum Hof van Busleyden (Mechelen, Belgium).

Office of the Vice President, International

Partial Bibliography of Publications on Non-Cloistered Religious Women, 2020–21

Please see the summaries of The Other Sister Research Seminars for discussions of other recent works and works in progress. 

Another bibliography post of this kind will be forthcoming in early 2022; please contact or a member of our graduate student team if you have suggestions for this list. Suggestions for additional titles from 2020-21 may also be appended to this blog post in the comment section below.

Partial Bibliography of Publications on Non-Cloistered Religious Women, 2020-21

Pablo Acosta-García, ‘En viva sangre bañadas: Caterina da Siena y las vidas de María de Ajofrín, Juana de la Cruz, María de Santo Domingo y otras santas vivas castellanas’, Archivio italiano per la storia della pietà 33 (2020), 143–72. English summary available here.

_____, ‘Radical Succession: Hagiography, Reform, and Franciscan Identity in the Convent of the Abbess Juana de la Cruz (1481-1534)’, in Religions 12, 223 (2021). Discussed in The Other Sister Research Seminar on Iberian Non-Cloistered Religious Women.

Cristina Andenna, ‘Female Religious Life in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries’, in Cambridge History of Monasticism in the Latin World vol. 2, ed. A. Beach and I. Cochelin (Cambridge University Press, 2020), 1039–56.

Lucy Barnhouse, ‘Disordered Women? The Hospital Sisters of Mainz and Their Late Medieval Identities’, in Medieval Feminist Forum 55, 2 (2020), 60–97.

Nancy Ann Bauer, ‘“Moniales et sorores”: La distinción canónica entre monjas y hermanas con particular referencia a las benedictinas’, in Nova et vetera: pensamiento y mundo monástico 90 (2020), 109–43.

Giulia Barone, ‘Vivere la propria vocazione religiosae dentro e fuori dal chiostro’, in Vivere la Città: Roma nel Rinascimento, ed. I. Ait and A. Esposito (Viella, 2020), 189–204.

Alison I. Beach and Isabelle Cochelin, ‘General Introduction’, in Cambridge History of Medieval Monasticism in the Latin West vol. 1, ed. A. I. Beach and I. Cochelin (Cambridge University Press, 2020), 1–16.

Marie Brassel, ‘Le cas des repenties à la fin du Moyen Âge entre la France et l’Italie’, in La fama delle donne. Pratiche femminili e società tra Medioevo ed Età moderna, ed. Vincenzo Lagioia, Maria Pia Paoli, and Rossella Rinaldi (Viella, 2020), 57–75.

Angela Carbone, Ritirate dalle cose del mondo. Donne e istituzioni nel Mezzogiorno moderno. Guida Editori, 2020.

Paula Cardosa, ‘Unveiling Female Observance: Reform, Regulation, and the Rise of Dominican Nunneries in Late Medieval Portugal’, in Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies 12 (2020), 365–82.

Megan Cassidy-Welch, ‘Lay Brothers and Sisters in the High and Late Middle Ages’, in Cambridge History of Medieval Monasticism in the Latin West vol. 2, ed. A. I. Beach and I. Cochelin (Cambridge University Press, 2020), 1027–38.

Eva-Maria Cersovsky, ‘Ubi non est mulier, ingemiscit egens? Gendered Perceptions of Care from the Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries’, in Gender, Health and Healing, 1250–1550, ed. S. Ritchey and S. Strocchia (Amsterdam University Press, 2020), 191–214. Discussed in The Other Sister Research Seminar on Charity, Caregiving, and Female Social Roles from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Period.

Elisa Novi Chavarria, Accogliere e curare. Ospedali e culture delle nazioni nella Monarchia ispanica (secc. XVI-XVII). Viella, 2020.

Eloise David, ‘Catherine of Siena: a Dominican Political Thinker in Fourteenth‐century Italy’, in Renaissance Studies: Journal of the Society for Renaissance Studies 35 (2021), 237–54.

Sylvie Duval, ‘Vierges et dames blanches. Communautés religieuses féminines à Milan, XIIe-XIVe siècles’, in Revue Mabillon 31 (2020), 81–107.

Anna Esposito, ‘Le donne in ospedale nell’Italia centro-settentrionale (fine XIV-inizio XVI secolo)’, in Alle origini del welfare: Radici medievali e moderne della cultura europea dell’assistenza, ed. G. Piccinni (Viella, 2020), 427–45.

Lucia Ferrante, ‘“Essendo massime avvezza a stare rinchiusa…”: Fama e segregazione di genere (Bologna, secc. XVI-XVII)’, in La fama delle donne. Pratiche femminili e società tra Medioevo ed Età moderna, ed. Vincenzo Lagioia, Maria Pia Paoli, and Rossella Rinaldi (Viella, 2020),  259–77.

Jeffrey Hamburger and Eva Schlotheuber, eds, The Liber ordinarius of Nivelles (Houghton Library, MS Lat 422): Liturgy as Interdisciplinary Intersection. Mohr Siebeck, 2020.

Isabel Harvey, ‘Braccio di ferro tra una terziaria domenicana e un convento maschile visto attraverso l’Inquisizione napoletana. Il processo per affettata santità contro suor Giovanna Cesarea di Napoli (1672-1682)’, in Donne e Inquisizione ed. Marina Caffiero and Alessia Lirosi (Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2020), 97-127.

Michelle Marie Herder, ‘Scandal and the Social Networks of Religious Women’, in Women and Community in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia, ed.  M. Armstrong-Partida, A. Guerson, D. W. Lightfoot (University of Nebraska Press, 2020), 214–29.

Sigrid Hirbodian, ‘Religious Women: Secular Canonesses and Beguines’, in The Oxford Handbook of Christian Monasticism, ed. B. M. Kaczynski (Oxford University Press, 2020).

Laura Ingallinella, ‘The Canonization of Piccarda Donati’, in Forum Italicum (2021), 1–22.

Thomas Forrest Kelly and Martin Klöckener, eds. The Liber Ordinarius of the Abbey of Saint Gertrude at Nivelles : Harvard University, Houghton Library MS Lat. 422. Aschendorff Verlag, 2020.

Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, Katie Anne-Marie Bugyis, and John Van Engen, eds., Women Intellectuals and Leaders in the Middle Ages. Boydell and Brewer, 2020.

Beverly Mayne Kienzle, Hildegard of Bingen: Gospel Interpreter. Fortress Academic, 2020.

Racha Kirakosian, The Life of Christina of Hane. Yale University Press, 2021.

Lezlie S. Knox and David B. Couturier, Franciscan Women: Female Identities and Religious Culture in the Middle Ages. Franciscan Institute Publications, 2020. 

Vincenzo Lagioia, ‘“Sotto pretesto di riforme”: le monache di Santa Maria delle Convertite, tra infamia e santità (Bologna, sec. XVI)’, in  La fama delle donne. Pratiche femminili e società tra Medioevo ed Età moderna, ed. Vincenzo Lagioia, Maria Pia Paoli, and Rossella Rinaldi (Viella, 2020), 239–57.

Paulette L’Hermite-Leclercq, ‘Reclusion in the Middle Ages’, in Cambridge History of Monasticism in the Latin World vol. 2, ed. A. Beach and I. Cochelin (Cambridge University Press, 2020), 747–65.

Eliana Magnani, ‘Female House Ascetics from the Fourth to the Twelfth Century’, in in Cambridge History of Monasticism in the Latin World vol. 1, ed. A. Beach and I. Cochelin (Cambridge University Press, 2020), 213–31.

Corinne Marchal, Un âge d’or des chapitres des chapitres nobles de chanoinesses en Europe au XVIIIe siècle: le cas de la Franche-Comté. Brepols, 2021. 

Maya Maskarinec, ‘Nuns as “Sponsae Christi”: The Legal Status of the Medieval Oblates of Tor de’Specci’, in The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 72 (2020), 280–99. 

Karen McLuskey, New Saints in Late Medieval Venice, 1200-1500. Routledge, 2020.

Julia I. Miller, ‘Eve, Mary, and Martha: Paintings for the Humiliati Nuns at Viboldone’ in Speculum 96 (2021), 418–65.

Tanya Stabler Miller, ‘Reviled and Revered: The Importance of Marginality in the Pastoral Care of Beguines’, in Rethinking Medieval Margins and Marginality, ed. A. E. Zimo, T. D. Van Sprecher, K. Reyerson, and D. G. Blumenthal (Routledge, 2020), 146–63.

Alison More, ‘Lay Piety and Franciscan Tertiary Identity’, in Non enim fuerat Evangelii surdus auditor, ed. M. Cusato and S. McMichael (Brill, 2020), 334–47.

Alison More and Anneke Mulder-Bakker, ‘Striving for Perfection in the Lay World of Northern Europe’, in Cambridge History of Monasticism in the Latin World vol. 2, ed. A. Beach and I. Cochelin (Cambridge University Press, 2020), 1057–73.

María Morrás, Rebeca Sanmartín Bastida, and Yonsoo Kim, eds., Gender and Exemplarity in Medieval and Early Modern Spain. Brill, 2020. 

Silvia Nocentini, ‘Una nuova Caterina o un nuovo Raimondo?: Elsbeth Achler (1386–1420), l’eccezione che conferma la regola’, in Archivio italiano per la storia della pietà 33 (2020), 25–41.

Mary Elizabeth Perry, ‘Chapter 5: Chastity and Danger’, in Gender and Disorder in Early Modern Seville (Princeton University Press, 2021), 97–117. 

Pierantonio Piatti, ed., Caterina da Siena e la vita religiosa femminile: un percorso domenicano. Campisano, 2020. 

Sara Ritchey, ed., Acts of Care: Recovering Women in Late Medieval Health. Cornell University Press, 2021.

Rebeca Sanmartín Bastida, ‘La emergencia de la autoridad espiritual femenina ‘ortodoxa’: El modelo de María de Ajofrín’, in Hispania Sacra, 72 (2020), 125–35. 

_____, ‘María de Santo Domingo, desde Aldeanueva’, in Archivio italiano per la storia della pietà, 33 (2020), 119–41. 

_____, ‘Performing Authority through Iconography: On Iberian Visionary Women and Images’, in The Routledge Hispanic Studies Companion to Medieval Iberia, ed. M. Gerli and R. Giles (Routledge, 2021), 600–20. 

Amanda Scott, The Basque Seroras: Local Religion, Gender, and Power in Northern Iberia, 1550–1800. Cornell University Press, 2020. Discussed in The Other Sister Research Seminar on Iberian Non-Cloistered Religious Women.

Jörg Voigt, ‘Paulerregelnonnen und Barfussenschwestern: Beginen im Umfeld der Dominikaner und Franziskaner in Leipzig im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert’, in Neue Forschungen zu sächsischen Klöstern. Ergebnisse und Perspektiven, ed. E. Bünz, D. M. Mütze, and S. Zinsmeyer (Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2020), 563–75.

Elise Watson, ‘The Jesuitesses in the Bookshop: Catholic Lay Sisters’ Participation in the Dutch Book Trade, 1650–1750’, in Studies in Church History 57 (2021), 163–84.

Alison Weber, ‘Espacio conventual postridentio: Clausura, disciplina, y caritas en dos comunidades de Carmelitas Descalzas’, in Lo spazio e i luoghi. Cultura Materiale, Storia religiosa, Patrimonio, ed. E. Marchetti. (Longo Editore, 2020), 151–67.

_____. ‘Chapter I: Little Women: Counter-Reformation Misogyny’, in Teresa of Avila and the Rhetoric of Femininity(Princeton University Press, 2021), 17–41.

Call for papers, RSA 2022 – Dublin. Non-Cloistered Religious Women: Between World and Church

Beguines are trendy: many websites and novels are dedicated to them. But who were they? Their rediscovery created an upheaval in the long-accepted binary scheme of the female condition in the past: the convent or the house, aut virum aut murum. The beguines were, in fact, only the tip of the iceberg, that of non-cloistered female religious life. The works of Gabriella Zarri about the “terzo stato” in the 1990s demonstrated the importance of this third way of religious celibacy outside religious enclosure. The non-cloistered sisters represented a perpetually changing reality throughout Western Christendom, and the multiplication of female congregations in the nineteenth century was based in large part on this phenomenon, long ignored by historiography. In fact, these sisters were probably much more numerous than cloistered nuns, but they have been the subject of very few studies.

 The Sorores and The Other Sister projects, supported respectively by the École française de Rome and the Canadian governement SSHRC, is planning a series of panels for the upcoming RSA conference in Dublin (31 March-2 April 2022) about women who publicly lived non-cloistered religious lives in Europe and the colonies between 1400 and 1800. Possible topics include:

  • Comparative historiography and historiographical issues about non-cloistered forms of women’s lives
  • Enclosure and its definitions
  • Forms and experiences of women’s non-cloistered religious lives
  • The structures of these communities
  • The social role and presence of non-cloistered religious women in cities
  • Community (Societies, Third Order, Dimesse…) vs individual (bizzochemonache di casa…) experiences
  • Permanency and mutation throughout long time periods 
  • Relations with ecclesiastical and secular authorities
  • The spirituality of non-cloistered religious women
  • Networks of people and groups
  • Sources and methodology

Papers should be 15-20 minutes. 

Please email your abstract by August 5, 2021, to Sylvie Duval (, Isabel Harvey ( and Sergi Sancho Fibla (, with your full name, current affiliation, and email address; a paper title (15-word maximum), and an abstract (150-word maximum).