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
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.