Margaret Chowning explores how Mexican women created positions of authority for themselves within the Catholic Church during the tumultuous post-Independence years.
Many historians have assumed that Mexican women have a “special affinity” for the Catholic Church and that this close relationship has always existed. My research — on changes over time in how women have related to ecclesiastical authority within key institutional contexts — suggests that only the first of these assumptions is correct. That is, Mexican women do have a special affinity for the church, but it is a historical relationship — timeful, not timeless. Women played important roles in three types of ecclesiastical institutions: religious orders, schools for girls, and lay associations or cofradías. In this brief article, I will discuss only the changing relationship between women and the church in the cofradías.