Women are conspicuously absent from most church history books. Yet women made up at least half of early Christian congregations. This course looks at the women who have been hiding in plain sight in texts and archaeological evidence of the first five hundred years of the expansion of Christianity across the Mediterranean world and beyond. Who were their role models in Scripture? What avenues were open to them to use their gifts in serving their communities? Did Christianity mean conformity or revolution in regards to agency and social norms? Were there women priests? How did views of female embodiment affect their experience as wives, mothers, virgins, widows? What can archaeology, inscriptions and papyrii reveal about their daily lives?
Each week a recorded lecture will provide important historical and cultural background for understanding the assigned texts and an overview of significant women representative of that topic. The live online sessions will be a seminar discussion of primary sources about one or more of these women, such as Deborah, Huldah, Rahab, Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan Woman, Priscilla, Junia, Maximilla, Perpetua, Amma Sarah, Macrina, Proba, Egeria, Paula, Eustochium, Galla Placidia and Theodora. Assessment will be via written assignments, with two different options: three 500-word essays or one 1500-word essay. Suggested topics will be provided, but students are free to propose a question for research.