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Title: Vowesses in the Province of Canterbury, c. 1450-1540
Author: Wood, Laura Mary
ISNI:       0000 0004 8499 3651
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis is a contribution toward putting vowesses back into our understanding of pre-Reformation and early Reformation England, after a long period of near-obscurity. Although these women were known to antiquarian scholars, they were almost entirely forgotten until rediscovered and studied by Mary C. Erler and others in the mid-1990s. There have since been several articles on individual vowed women and some consideration of the vocation itself, but this thesis is the first full length exploration of the topic. It focuses upon the southern province as much pre-existing work has had a decidedly northern bias. The thesis examines vowesses' unique position in England as half-lay, half-religious. Having taken one of the three monastic vows, they occupied liminal space between the world and the cloister, and between active and contemplative piety. They also balanced their identification with their (usually deceased) earthly husbands with their position as a bride of Christ. Detailed biographical work exposes how these women reconciled the intrinsic tensions of the vocation, and reveals the variety amongst the lives of vowed women. The thesis argues that the significance of the vocation, both to the English Church and to society, has historically been underplayed: not only were vowed women more commonplace than originally thought, they were active in most spheres of public life. Vowesses' freedom to hold and manage property and to dictate their own domestic and religious habits lent them an agency that was unusual for women at the time. Furthermore, the implied ecclesiastical sanction of a woman vowed at an episcopal ceremony, and the fact that her chastity was formally and publicly recognised, increased her public influence. Far from being religious recluses, these women were integrated into and upheld by their communities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: medieval ; Tudor ; early modern ; gender ; women ; church ; chastity ; widows ; parish ; convents ; religion