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October 28, 1998
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v2.1 Reference

Women in the Inquisition

Spain and the New World

Edited by Mary E. Giles

Ana Domenge, who later founded the Dominican convent in Perpignán, composed a written account of her spiritual intimacies with God while being held in terrible conditions in a secret prison in Barcelona. Inés of Herrera del Duque, a leather tanner's twelve-year-old daughter whose messianic prophesies captivated both children and adults, was burned at the stake along with many of her followers. Nine years after the death of Catarina de San Juan, the Inquisition banned copies of her image and biography, fearing that a cult was forming around this popular holy woman in Puebla, New Spain. Inquisitors enlisted the assistance of Mari Sánchez's daughter to prove that this Jewish converso was guilty of practicing Judaism in secret, an accusation that led to her death. In Women in the Inquisition, Mary E. Giles brings together scholars from literature, history, and religious studies to explore women's experiences under the Inquisition in both Spain and the New World.

Based on fresh archival work, the essays provide a broader perspective on the Inquisition than has previously been available. Examining the stories of fifteen women in the context of this fearful Catholic institution in both Spain and the New World, the contributors chronicle a broad range of "crimes" against the Catholic Church, including sexual transgressions, the practice of crypto-Judaism, and the writing and preaching by alumbradas that undermined Catholic orthodoxy. The accounts, representing the experiences of girls and women from different classes and geographical regions, also include the trials' vastly divergent outcomes ranging from burning at the stake to exoneration.

About the Author

Mary E. Giles is professor of humanities and religious studies at the California State University in Sacramento.


Rather than just recounting trial records, Women in the Inquisition places Spanish women's experiences in a broad social and historical setting. Giles clearly presents the different categories of women's experience: converso women, alumbradas, and women in the New World. Women in the Inquisition will be of interest to teachers of European history courses who want to add more women's voices and to women's studies instructors as well.

- Jessica CoopeUniversity of Nebraska, author of Martyrs of Cordoba: Community and Family Conflict in an Age of Mass Conversions


The essays are all very polished, extremely informative and give a most interesting cross-section of themes.

- Henry Kamen - Revista Canadiense De Estudios Hispanicos

All of the essays here are of high quality and display a careful, probing reading of problematic sources. Far from being simply a series of microhistories, these essays, viewed collectively, highlight important issues in the study of the Inquisition, the role of women, and the complexities of familial and social relations in the early modern period.

- Elizabeth A. Lehfeldt - Sixteenth Century Journal
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9780801859328 : women-in-the-inquisition-giles
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416 Pages
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