Women's autonomy, authority, and leadership through the late antique period of the Church in the Roman Empire

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LeMaître, Bénédicte
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This thesis provides an examination of late antique Christian women and ways through which they accessed leadership, authority, and autonomy in a period that offered them limited opportunities. Drawing upon hagiographical texts, authoritative church texts, councils, canons, decrees, and letters, this thesis will illumine the lives of late antique Christian women, the obstacles they faced, and the ways through which they carved out space for themselves in a male dominated sphere. The main finding of this thesis is that women’s roles were limited, varied, and that authoritative voices in the church placed great effort into trying to control women in this period. When women’s roles, lives, and ministries were actually documented, they often fell victim to rhetorical construction in order to further the ideals of the men writing them into history. Despite attempts from the male dominated authoritative structure of the church to regulate women, hagiographical exaggerations, and manipulations of gendering, some early Christian women found ways to serve as leaders, access some authority, and live with autonomy.
Late Antiquity, Early Christianity, Early Christian Women, Women in the Church, Deaconesses, Ecumenical Councils, Melania the Younger, Melania the Elder, Olympias, Pelagia, Deaconess Romana, Macrina, Thecla, Hippolytus