Tag Archives: non-cloistered women

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)

CHARBONNEL LOUNGE

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 tos2023conference@gmail.com.

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).

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