In honor of Women’s History Month, it seemed fitting to highlight a book series dedicated to reviving the voices of women in Early Modern Europe (c. 1400-1700) entitled Other Voices in Early Modern Europe. The editors Margaret L. King and Albert Rabil Jr. started in 1996 with the humble intention of chronicling around a dozen female figures and publishing their works in English. Although, once the project was underway they discovered more and more women. The series took on a life of its own and is still underway after sixty volumes. Other Voices narrates stories of neglected women “with the aim of reviving scholarly interest in their thought as expressed in a full range of genres: treatises, orations, and history; lyric, epic, and dramatic poetry; novels and novellas; letters, biography, and autobiography; and philosophy, science, and religion” (back cover of Teaching Other Voices: Women and Religion in Early Modern Europe).
If you are interested in the series I would recommend starting with Teaching Other Voices: Women and Religion in Early Modern Europe (2007) by King and Rabil. The book is intended to serve as an introduction to the entire series. It also does a good job providing an overview of the various literary genres and historical contexts. Teaching modules and course overviews are also provided in order to equip teachers with ideas on how to incorporate these volumes into their curriculum.
The series does not argue that women were at the forefront of religious influence in Early Modern Europe. Nevertheless, it evidences the subtle, pervasive, and important role women played in religious history.
With a few exceptions, women were not at the forefront of the institutions or movements that contribute to the mainstream narrative of religious institutions and belief in this period. But neither were they absent. Women participated fully and critically in the religious history of the age, although generally from positions far from institutional or state power. The record of that participation gives us an alternate history (Teaching Other Voices, 4).
The series is monumental for women in religious history today because, as the editors argue, it provides alternative voices.
From the fourteenth century to the eighteenth, women engaged in the religious life, and in the development of our religious traditions, in ways that men did not. Just as they spoke with an “other voice” in these early modern centuries, they have left to the world their legacy of another kind of religious experience pursued with boldness and commitment. The works of the women noted here would constitute in themselves a course on Women and Religion. Individual works or clusters of related cases would greatly enrich courses in early modern history, women’s studies, or any of the relevant European literatures. As they illumine those for whom they wrote, they can illumine our students today (Teaching Other Voices, 22).
With the publication of these volumes it will become increasingly harder to find cogent excuses for the absence of women’s voices in college and seminary courses on the history of Christianity.
Here are a few examples:
The Contest for Knowledge (May 2005) Debates over Women’s learning in Eighteenth-Century Italy
Declamation on the Nobility and Preeminence of the Female Sex (September 1996)
The Inquisition of Francisca (April 2005) A Sixteenth-Century Visionary on Trail
Laura Battifera and Her Literary Circle (May 2006) An Anthology: A Bilingual Edition
Urania (January 2005) A Romance
To see a full list of all sixty volumes click here.