"...meticulously researched and compellingly written.... Diefendorf's study goes a long way toward recovering ways that women, as well as men, steered the development of early modern Catholicism."--CSS NEWSLETTER
"Diefendorf captures in broad brush strokes and in telling detail the lives, spiritual yearnings, and charitable impulses of seventeenth-century Parisian women who fulfilled their lives in the new, immensely varied communities they created for themselves. The research is awesome: the saints come alive through narratives of social, financial, and institutional successes and failures. A major contribution to the history of women, Paris, and the mystical quest for union with the divine."--Orest Ranum, Johns Hopkins University
"Diefendorf's book is the first major attempt to piece together and explain the powerful religious movement which made Paris the second capital of the Catholic Reformation by the early seventeenth century. Based on extensive research, it shrewdly sifts and weighs the constituent elements of religious revival, and convincingly shows how central the role of women in it really was. It sets both the standard and the agenda for future research, inside and outside of France."--Joseph Bergin, University of Manchester
"This brief review can hardly do justice to a book that includes a number of gripping stories and intriguing details on its way to a successful, convincing synthetic approach to recent scholarly debates on women's experiences of the developing piety of the Counter-Reformation....Aside from its contributions to ongoing debates in the field, the true triumph of the picture of Catholic women's piety that emerges in this book is the fact that it could be read sympathetically both by secular scholars of the field and interested religious readers."--H-Catholic
"This remarkable work revises our understanding of the Catholic Reformation in France in major ways. Certain Parisian women, Diefendorf demonstrates, fashioned a new style of piety that met their own spiritual needs. Then, as lay founders of convents and as prioresses in new institutions, they developed means for serving the needs of other women, both elite and poor, lay as well as religious. Diefendorf combines extensive new findings and new critical ways of reading contemporary sources with deep reflection and smooth, engaging writing."--Carolyn Lougee Chappell, Stanford University
"From Penitence to Charity gives us a new view of women in early modern Catholicism. We see them not just as other-wordly mystics but as engaged, socially aware individuals active in their society and determined to remedy some of its worst ills. Diefendorf's highly readable book makes a strong case for women's agency and women's ability to transform mysticism into social action."--Kathryn Norberg, Editor, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society
About the Author
Barbara B. Diefendorf is Professor of History at Boston University. She is the author of Paris City Councillors in the Sixteenth Century: The Politics of Patrimony and Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris (OUP, 1991).