Winning the Catholic Reformation through the Conversion of Female Protestants: The Education of Les Nouvelles Catholiques in Seventeenth-Century France
AuthorKang, Julie H.
KeywordsPropagation de la foi
AdvisorKarant-Nunn, Susan C.
Committee ChairKarant-Nunn, Susan C.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the gendering of heresy and general ignorance in relation to the making of a centralized state in Catholic Reformation France. It studies the strategies of reformers and propagandists in France during the seventeenth century, whose main ambition was to extirpate heresy, namely, the religion of the French Reformed Church. In so doing, they targeted female Protestants in their efforts to establish a French state unified under the single religion of Catholicism. Established in Paris in 1632, the Propagation de la foi (Propagation of Faith) began to spread out to other regions of France in the mid-seventeenth century. Until the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the deliberation records of the meetings of the provincial compagnies reveal an intense focus to convert Huguenot girls and women. Taking into account the significance of the early modern family in the making of a moral society, the Propagation’s plan to find new homes, often in the way of marriage, resonated with their ultimate objective and that of the French Catholic Reformation. Financial incentives drew in new female converts and at the same time allowed individual women and the families of girls to take advantage of the Propagation. In addition, religious reformers who denigrated the early modern female body created a binary comparison such that pious women could take part in French Catholicism’s war against Protestantism. Female missionaries, patrons, and maternal models defined, in opposition to idolaters and heretics, idealized aspects of femininity. Through a good upbringing or “education,” France was poised to become the kind of state that zealous Catholics envisioned. Early modern writers such as Fénelon could not emphasize enough a proper education for girls, whose primary teachers were their mothers. Parents and especially mothers, therefore, had the civic responsibility to raise their daughters well: to be modest and chaste. By reforming the family, reformers sought to make good Catholic daughters who would curtail the development of future generations of unruly Huguenot girls and women.