As I read “A Key to the Counter Reformation Women,” I loved how Ranft took another author’s thesis and, while giving credit to the author, built upon it. I thought this was a perfect example of what we are trying to do—to build upon the current historiography and join in the conversation of European Women’s History. The author adds to the argument by claiming that women gained power because of their relationship to the patriarchal society of Catholicism. She explains that Women sought spiritual direction and appealed to their confessors, both actions were accomplished through “The Confessor-Spiritual Director.” In explaining the structure of the patriarchal society contained within the Catholic Church, Ranft shows the ability of such a society to flex and allow power over religious matters to be controlled by each individual woman, while still maintaining the power of the patriarchal society.
In reading the excerpts of the biography of Teresa of Avila, I found them to be rather intriguing. One selection in particular I found appealing was Chapter 10. In this chapter, Saint Teresa explains the ways in which she has found mercy in the Lord and the power of prayer. She also states her view of being a woman, as it pertains to the context of religion and her function within the church’s structure. She states “the very thought that I am a woman is enough to make my wings droop -- how much more, then, the thought that I am such a wicked one! ... it is seen that on so foul and malodorous a dunghill He [the Lord] has planted a garden of sweet flowers.” This statement bothered me when I read it, and still does. Though she was a very pious and wonderful saint, because she was a woman she felt as if she was worthless and could not achieve, except in the Lord. Though perhaps she is proclaiming her humility, I wonder at her thoughts concerning women’s role in religion and if their religious experiences were valid and useful enough to impart to others.
I chose to classify these sources under the themes of Religion and Gender because they both address the roles, or views, of women in Catholic society contrasted with that of men.