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March 18

Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
who is solely responsible for its content.
This document has been taken from emailed versions
of Women of Achievement. The complete episode
will be published here in the future.

Unclean Women


QUOTE by Dr. Agnes Wells.

Excerpt from Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven

      "Though they had a long struggle for the right to a normal burial, women who had just given birth had to struggle even longer for the right to return to church without undergoing a special purification. On January 13, 1199, Pope Innocent III imposed an interdict on France because the French King was living in an invalid marriage with his mistress Agnes of Meran. The interdict ordered all the churches in France to be closed, and to be opened only for infant baptisms. The Pope 'strictly' forbade women to come to church for purification, and since they had not been 'churched,' they were also not permitted to take part in the baptism of their children. Only after the interdict was lifted could they be readmitted by the priest.
      "The custom of purifying women after childbirth has lasted almost up to the present. The Kirchenlexikon of Wetzer/Welte (1886) describes 'churching' in this way:

'Like the catechumens and penitents, the woman who has just had a child must first stand, or kneel, outside the church door; and only when she has been solemnly purified by sprinkling with holy water and the prayer of the priest is she led into the church. This is similar to what stilI happens today with catechumens and to what used to happen before with public penitents on Holy Thursday' (Wetzer/Welte I, 1711).
      "As late as the 1960s the practice of 'churching' was still strictly adhered to. In 1987 a woman wrote me as follows: 'I can recall how terribly ashamed my mother once was. In 1960 my younger sister was born. My mother was not allowed to be present at the baptism because she had not yet been churched. Some time later in the afternoon she sneaked off all by herself to church, where the paster churched her. Only then could she attend services again.' "
            -- Excerpted from Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven, by Uta Ranke-Heinemann. New York: Doubleday, 1990. ISBN 0-385-26527-1.
      Dr. Ranke Heinemann was the first woman to qualify as a university lecturer in Catholic theology. In 1970 she became a professor of Catholic theology. She lost her academic chair in New Testament and Ancient Church History at the University of Essen for interpreting Mary's Virgin birth theologically and not biologically. She now hold the chair for History of Religion at the same university.

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Baptized: 03-18-1634, Madame de la Fayette, credited with writing France's first historical novels.

B. 03-18-1891, Margaret Culkin Banning, author, raised her two children alone on the proceeds of her writing, creating almost 40 novels. Although not great literature, her book reflected the problems of women of her time and class (she was Roman Catholic) had with careers, marriage, birth control, ageism, etc.

B. 03-18-1963, Vanessa Williams, first black Miss America and the first Miss America (1984) to have her title removed for misconduct. She had posed for a series of explicitly sexual nude photos with another woman. [I've seen them and they are explicit although I don't agree that her title should have been removed. -- IS]

B. 03-18-1964, Bonnie Blair, speed skater. Born on March 18, 1964, in Cornwall, N.Y. She moved with her parents to Champaign, Ill., when she was 2 and began skating at that time. In 1988 Blair won the gold medal in the 500 meters at the Winter Olympics in Calgary, and a bronze in the 1,000 meters. In the 1992 games in Albertville, France, she won two gold medals at the same distances, becoming the first American Woman to win three gold medals in the Winter Olympics and in 1994 she added more.

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      "You'd be amazed at the number of women who don't know they are not protected by the US Constitution."
            -- Dr. Agnes Wells, emeritus dean of women, Indiana University and president of the National Woman's Party, 1949.

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