Women and Poor Relief in Seventeenth-Century France: The Early History of the Daughters of Charity, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Women and Poor Relief in Seventeenth-Century France

The Early History of the Daughters of Charity, 1st Edition

By Susan E. Dinan


200 pages

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Hardback: 9780754655534
pub: 2006-01-28
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Chronicling the history of the Daughters of Charity through the seventeenth century, this study examines how the community's existence outside of convents helped to change the nature of women's religious communities and the early modern Catholic church. Unusually for the time, this group of Catholic religious women remained uncloistered. They lived in private houses in the cities and towns of France, offering medical care, religious instruction and alms to the sick and the poor; by the end of the century, they were France's premier organization of nurses. This book places the Daughters of Charity within the context of early modern poor relief in France - the author shows how they played a critical role in shaping the system, and also how they were shaped by it. The study also examines the complicated relationship of the Daughters of Charity to the Catholic church of the time, analyzing it not only for what light it can shed on the history of the community, but also for what it can tell us about the Catholic Reformation more generally.


'Dinan's welcome book shows us French women as active and creative participants in the Catholic renewal of the seventeenth century. Tracing the evolution of the Daughters of Charity from a small handful of women under the personal direction of Louise de Marillac to a complex organization with 250 houses scattered across France, it highlights the personal and professional initiative the daughters displayed as they expanded their work as 'servants to the poor' to include teaching, health care, and hospital management and convincingly explains the strong and yet flexible institutional structures that ensured the company's continued success long after its founder's death.' Barbara Diefendorf, Professor of History, Boston University 'Dinan's book is an important addition to recent studies on women's spirituality in the Protestant and Catholic Reformations.' Renaissance Quarterly 'In addition to providing a much needed study of the particular history of the Daughters of Charity, Dinan's book deepens our understanding of women's religious experience and their contribution to religious change in Catholic Reformation France.' H-France Review ’To Dinan's credit, she has succeeded in unearthing, collating, and analyzing a variety of rich sources that reveal a confraternal group that provided the inspiration and model for the most prevalent forms of Catholic social engagement in the modern world… a book that will serve as an essential reference to the study of the 'feminization' of the Catholic reformation in France.’ The Catholic Historical Review

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; The foundation of the Daughters of Charity; Varieties of work: living the active vocation in parishes; Varieties of work: living the active vocation in institutions; Bureaucraticization and the growth of the Company of the Daughters of Charity; Epilogue; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Susan E. Dinan is Director at University Honors College, William Paterson University, USA.

About the Series

Women and Gender in the Early Modern World

Women and Gender in the Early Modern World
The study of women and gender offers some of the most vital and innovative challenges to current scholarship on the early modern period. For more than a decade now, Women and Gender in the Early Modern World has served as a forum for presenting fresh ideas and original approaches to the field. Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary in scope, this Routledge series strives to reach beyond geographical limitations to explore the experiences of early modern women and the nature of gender in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. We welcome proposals for both single-author volumes and edited collections which expand and develop this continually evolving field of study.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General