History and Sources

Were there any Mothers of the Church?

There were many important “Church Mothers,” women of great influence in the early Church. They have been less famous because they rarely wrote and published as did their male counterparts. Unfortunately, we know little of many of these women apart from often scanty or anonymous references in the writings of the Fathers and in early histories of Christianity. The historian Eusebius, for example, mentions some fifty-five women as making important contributions. Recent research has begun to give some of these outstanding women names and “faces.” Some of the first well-known women were martyrs such as Blandina (d. 177), and Perpetua, and Felicitas, who both died in 203. Along with the so-called Desert Fathers credited with the beginnings of monasticism were a number of Desert Mothers. Macrina (c. 327-379), sister of Basil and Gregory of Nyssa, was also a prominent churchwoman. We know from the testimony of other authors that she was a respected theologian.


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