This book is a study of the contribution of women to the development of the newly legitimate Christian church in the twilight of the Western Roman Empire. There are many women noted for the example of their life in this period, regarded amongst the luminaries of the day; but while their male mentors, the patristic authors have retained their fame, the women who surrounded and influenced them have all but disappeared from sight. The women themselves are partly to blame for this, for in order to be pious it made sense to disguise one's sex sometimes literally: Dr Cloke gives examples of those whose sex was discovered only after their death - they sought to become androgynous, a third sex before God. This book looks at a multitude of examples in some detail and takes an overview of the role of Christian women at this time. It should appeal not only to historians, classicists and theologians, but also to anyone who takes a general interest in the changing status of women over the the centuries.
'Its method is that of traditional documentary social history, avoiding the inaccesibilities and pretesions of some more literay and theoretical approaches. No single work has provided a better introduction to the theme.' – Theological Book Review
'This is a useful addition to the growing literature on women in early Christianity.' – Theology
'… a well-synthesised and lucid presentation of the aspirations and ideals that the Church Fathers imparted to the holy women of late antiquity.' - Journal of Gender Studies
'Gillian Cloke has made real contribution to the language and terms that we use in our discussion of gender in the Christian community.' – Intams