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

When and Where

Thursday, May 18, 2023 9:00 am to Saturday, May 20, 2023 6:00 pm


In order to attend the conference via Zoom or in person, please email
The final schedule will be available later in April. Visit our blog at

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.

Those who cannot be present in Toronto may attend the conference virtually and ask questions through chat.


Tentative Program

Welcome notes

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

Interactions with the Church I

Melissa Moreton (Institute for Advanced Study), 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: Popes and Bishops Intervening in the Conflicts of Nivelles

Interactions with the Church II

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
Isabel Harvey (Université catholique de Louvain and UQAM), The Others: an Archival Journey to Restore the Experience of Non-Cloistered Religious Women who were Neither Saints, Heretics, Rich, nor Noble

Their voices

Michael Hahn (Sarum College), Angela of Foligno within Franciscan (mystical-)theological genealogies
Mary Harvey Doyno (Californa State Univ, Sacramento), Shout-Outs to the Friars: Catherine of Siena’s Daughters and the Search for Institutional Identity
Silvia Giovanardi Byer (Park University), Mystical Journeys in Post-Tridentine Italy: Caterina Paluzzi’s Laborious Writings


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 14th-Century Mediterranean
Andreas Nijenhuis-Bescher (Hankuk University of Foreign Studies), (In)visible presence. The Catholic klopjes in the Protestant public space of the early Dutch Republic


Samantha Slaubaugh (University of Notre Dame), Teaching the Liturgy through Ecstasy: Douceline of Digne’s Vida as Liturgical Source
Katherine Clark Walter (College of Brockport), Pious Widowhood in Text and Image: Widows’ Consecrations in Illuminated Pontificals of the Later Middle Ages

Production and Transmission of Knowledge

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: Anchoretic Women Intellectuals and Readers in 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 c.)

The lower-status ones

Kate Bush (College of the Holy Cross), 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 17th and 18th Century Quebec
Angela Carbone and Giovanna Da Molin (Università degli studi di Bari Aldo Moro), The Oblates of the Conservatory of the Santa Casa dell’Annunziata in Naples: rules, conflicts, powers (18th century)

In hagiographical sources

Alicia Smith (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto), Harlots and hermits: Thais as intertext for twelfth-century eremitic experiments
Barbara R. Walters (City University of New York), The Emerging Office of the Anchoress in Medieval Liège
Laura Moncion (University of Toronto), A Recluse in New France: The Life of Jeanne Le Ber (1662-1714)

Some communities

Sigrid Hirbodian (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen), Secular canonesses in southern Germany in the late middle ages: self-image and agency
Letha Böhringer (Universität zu Köln), The beguines of Cologne, a social history

Problems of definition, questions of identity

Fiona Griffiths (Stanford Univ), Clerics’ Wives as “Other” Sisters
Michelle M. Sauer (University of North Dakota), Noble women attached to the Minoresses in England


Alison Beach (Univ of Saint Andrew’s), Hermits, Inclusae, and Other Freelancers: Women in Germany’s Apostolic Awakening (11-12th c.)
Adrian Kammerer (Göttingen Universität), An Order and its’ Consequences: Effects of the Dominican Third Rule on Non-Cloistered Religious Women


John Van Engen (University of Notre Dame)


SSHRCC, St. Michael's College, PIMS, Faculty of Arts & Science, Office of the Vice President International, CMS, CRRS, Germanic Languages & Literatures, Department of History, Study of Religion, Women & Gender Studies Institute