Joanne Turpin most likely had a difficult time deciding which woman to choose to feature from each of the 21 Christian centuries. At times she most likely had many to choose from, while at other times there were but a few options. The contributions of women have too long been neglected in secular as well as Church history. There have been, of course, many women who made great contributions to Christianity, and to the world.
The women Turpin has chosen to write about are: Prisca the Evangelist, St. Perpetua, Apollonia of Alexandria, St. Macrina of Cappadocia, Pulcheria of Constantinople, St. Brigid, St. Hilda of Whitby, Lioba, Ludmila of Bohemia, Adelaide, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Clare, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Catherine of Genoa, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Louise de Marillac, Anne Marie Javouhey, Elizabeth Lange, Jean Donovan, and Dorothy Stang. Many of these women are known as saints today, and many others are deserving of that title.
Some of these women are not as well known as the others, however. Prisca is the wife of Aquilla, who are both mentioned in the New Testament as early believers and colleagues of St. Paul. Apollonia of Alexandria was a deaconess for the Church in Alexandria; she died a martyr rather than to renounce her faith. St. Macrina had famous brothers who were two of the four great doctors of the Eastern Church - St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa. Many in that family are known as saints. Pulcheria was a member of the imperial family in Constantinople and helped to protect the Church from heresies and presecutions. Lioba was a cousin of St. Boniface whose help he wanted in evangelizing to the Germans by creating monasteries for nuns. Ludmila was the mother of good King Wenceslaus. Anne Marie Javouhey was a French woman who helped people in France and in Franceís African and South American colonies. Elizabeth Lange, the founder of the first order for black women in the U.S., suffered much trouble and persecution along with her order from both Protestant and Catholic whites; the clergy was not always supportive. Jean Donovan as a young laywoman decided to join the Maryknoll Missionaries to work in El Salvador. She and three religious sisters were martyred December 2, 1980. Sister Dorothy Stang was murdered February 12, 2005, in Brazil by hired gunmen of a rich land owner who wanted her dead because she helped the poor and those whose land had been taken from them.
The individual stories of these women are readable and informative, and also very inspirational. Joanne Turpin does touch on some controversial subjects, like deaconesses, Liberation Theology, and equality for women in the Church. Turpinís story of Apollina of Alexandria relates history since she was a deaconess, which was an active ministry in the Church at that time. Liberation Theology shows up in the stories of the two last women, Jean Donovan and Dorothy Stang. It would seem that this brand of Liberation Theology, though, is one that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI approve since it does not mix Christianity and Marxism, although these women were accused of being communist when in fact they were not. Rather, they were fulfilling their Christian ministry of which the government and their supporters or rich land owners did not approve. In the Early Church, women had more roles in ministry.
There are no illustrations, but there is a bibliography and an index. This book is recommended to those wanting to know more about women in the Church throughout the centuries. This is of necessity a collection of snapshots: there were many other women of import in those centuries, like Mary the Mother of Jesus, St. Agnes, St. Therese, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, St. Gertrude the Great, St. Scholastica, and Blessed Julian of Norwich.
Joanne Turpin received her journalism degree from the University of Washington and is the author of Catholic Traditions (2004), Twelve Apostolic Women (2004), The World of Jesus (2002), Jesus Journey (1987) and other books.