Bibliography #10:

  Melania the Elder

  & Women in the Early Church

 - New Testament
 - Early Christianity
 - Medieval Christianity
 - The Reformation
 - Spirituality & Mysticism
 - Sacraments
 - 20th-Century Theology






#1: Surveys, Intros
#2: Ignatius of Antioch
#3: Origen
#4: Athanasius
#5: Cyril of Alexandria
#6: Jerome & Ambrose
#7: Augustine of Hippo
#8: Antony
#9: Cyril of Jerusalem
#10: Melania the Elder


 compiled by William Harmless, S.J.

Creighton University


       1. Women in the Graeco-Roman World: Studies

       2. Women in the Early Church: Studies

       3. Women in the Early Church: Texts





  Gillian Clark, Women in Late Antiquity: Pagan and Christian Lifestyles (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).  This may be the first book to examine what social life was like for women once Christianity became the dominant religion.  It examines the full range of issues and social facts: clothing and housing, marriage and divorce, child-bearing and celibacy, legal restraints and medical views.


Antti Arjava, Women and Law in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

Kate Cooper, The Virgin and the Bride: Idealized Womanhood in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996).

Georges Duby, Michelle Perot, Pauline Schmitt Pantel, eds., History of Women in the West: From Ancient Goddesses to Christian Saints (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994).

Elaine Fantham, Helene Peet Foley, Natalie Boymel Kampen, Sarah B. Pomeroy, eds., Women in the Classical World: Image and Text (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).  A very important sourcebook with both texts & artwork, with valuable commentary.

Ian McAuslan & Peter Walcot, eds., Women in Antiquity, Greece and Rome Studies 3 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

Geoffrey Nathan, The Family in Late Antiquity: The Rise of Christianity and the Endurance of Tradition (New York: Routledge, 2000).

Sarah B. Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity (New York: Schocken, 1975).

Susan Treggiari, Roman Marriage: Iusti Coniuges from the Time of Cicero to the Time of Ulpian (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).

Paul Veyne, ed., A History of Private Life: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987).  Contains a fine overview of marriage in the Roman world.





Ross Shepard Kraemer, “Women and Gender,” in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies, ed. Susan Ashbrook Harvey & David G. Hunter (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 465-492.  A fine overview of the state of the question.


Susanna Elm, Virgins of God: The Making of Asceticism in Late Antiquity, Oxford Classical Monographs (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).  A path-breaking study of the way that households of ascetic women became gradually institutionalized by some of the leaders of 4th-century orthodoxy, Athanasius and Basil of Caesarea.  This will reshape how historians understand the origins and development of monasticism.


D.L. Balch and C. Osiek, eds., Early Christian Families in Context: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).

David Brakke, Athanasius and Asceticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1998).  This has a valuable chapter on ascetic women in Alexandria and includes translations of some rare Athanasian texts.

Jan N. Bremmer and Marco Formisano, eds., Perpetua’s Passions: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) hardcover, $150. NEW.

Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).

R.D. Butler, The New Prophecy and 'New Visions': Evidence of Montanism in the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2006).

Susan A. Calef, “Thecla ‘Tried and True’ and the Inversion of Romance,” in A Feminist Companion to the New Testament Apocrypha, ed. Amy-Jill Levine (London: T&T Clark, 2006), 163-185.

Joan Cecelia Campbell, Phoebe: Patron and Emissary, series: Paul's Social Network: Brothers and Sisters in Faith (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009).

Elizabeth A. Clark, Ascetic Piety and Women’s Faith: Essays on Late Ancient Christianity, Studies in Women and Religion, vol. 20 (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1986).

Elizabeth A. Clark, Jerome, Chrysostom, and Friends: Essays and Translations, 2nd ed. (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1982).

Elizabeth A. Clark, “Holy Women, Holy Words: Early Christian Women, Social History, and the ‘Linguistic Turn,’” Journal of Early Christian Studies 6 (1998) 413-430.

Elizabeth A. Clark, “Ascetic Renunciation and Feminine Advancement: A Paradox of Late Ancient Christianity,” Anglican Theological Review 63 (1981) 240-257; reprinted in Ascetic Piety and Women’s Faith.

Elizabeth A. Clark, “Ideology, History, and the Construction of ‘Woman’ in Late Ancient Christianity,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 2 (1994) 155-184.

Gillian Clark, “Women and Asceticism in Late Antiquity,” in Asceticism, ed. Vincent L. Wimbush (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995) 33-48.

Gillian Cloke, This Female Man of God: Women and Spiritual Power in the Patristic Age, AD 350-450 (New York: Routledge, 1995).

L. Stephanie Cobb, Dying to be Men: Gender and Language in Early Christian Martyr Texts (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).

Lynda L. Coon, Sacred Fictions: Holy Women and Hagiography in Late Antiquity, Middle Ages Series (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997).

Stephen J. Davis, Cult of St. Thecla, Oxford Early Christian Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

Stephen J. Davis, “Pilgrimage and the Cult of Saint Thecla in Late Antique Egypt,” in David Frankfurter, ed., Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt (Leiden: Brill, 1998), pp. 303-340.

Susanna Elm, “Evagrius Ponticus’ Sententiae ad Virginem,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 45 (1991): 97-120.

Graham Gould, “Women in the Writings of the Fathers: Language, Belief and Reality,” in Women and the Church, ed. W.J. Sheils and D. Woods, Studies in Church History 27 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990).

Kim Haines-Eitzen, The Gendered Palimpsest: Women, Writing, and Representation in Early Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) hardcover, $65.

William Harmless, "Women in the Early Church: A Portrait Gallery," in Women and the Shaping of Catholicism: Women Through the Ages, ed. Richard W. Miller (Ligouri, 2009), 38-58.

Susan Ashbrook Harvey, "Women and Words: Texts by and about Women," in Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, eds. Lewis Ayres, Andrew Louth, and Frances M. Young (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 382-390.

Thomas J. Heffernan, The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) hardcover, $99. NEW.

David G. Hunter, Marriage, Celibacy, and Heresy in Ancient Christianity: The Jovianist Controversy, Oxford Early Christian Studies series (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

David G. Hunter, "Clerical Celibacy and the Veiling of Virgins: New Boundaries in Late Ancient Christianity," in Limits of Ancient Christianity: Essays on Lat Antique Thought and Culture in Honor of R.A. Markus, ed. William Klingshirn and Mark Vessey (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), 139-152.

E.D. Hunt, Holy Land Pilgrimage in the Later Roman Empire, AD 312-460 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984).

Scott F. Johnson, The Life and Miracles of Thekla: A Literary Study (Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, 2006).

Rebecca Krawiec, Shenoute and the Women of the White Monastery: Egyptian Monasticism in Late Antiquity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

Amy-Jill Levine & Maria Mayo Robbins, eds., Feminist Companion to Patristic Literature (New York: T&T Clark, 2008).

Arnaldo Momigliano, “The Life of St. Macrina by Gregory of Nyssa,” in The Craft of the Ancient Historian: Essays in Honor of Chester G. Starr, ed. John W. Eadie & Josiah Ober (Landham, MD: University Press of America, 1985), 443-458.

Joyce E. Salisbury, Perpetua’s Passion: The Death and Memory of a Young Roman Woman (New York: Routledge, 1998).

David M. Scholer, ed., Women in Early Christianity, Studies in the Early Church, vol. 17 (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993).  Reprints of major essays over the last 20 years.  See especially:

  • Anne Yarbrough, “Christianization in the Fourth Century: The Example of Roman Women,” 319-335; reprint from Church History 45 (1976) 149-165.

  • J. Kevin Coyle, “The Fathers on Women and Women’s Ordination,” 117-167; reprint from Église et Théologie 9 (1978) 51-101.

Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad Books, 1986).

J.Warren Smith, “Macrina, Tamer of Horses and Healer of Souls: Grief and the Therapy of Hope in Gregory of Nyssa’s De Anima et Resurrectione,” Journal of Theological Studies n.s. 52 (2001) 37-60.

Bonnie Thurston, Women in the New Testament: Questions and Commentary, Companions to the New Testament (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1998).

Benedicta Ward, “Apophthegmata Matrum,” Studia Patristica 16, ed. Elizabeth A. Livingstone (Berlin: TU, 1985): 63-66; reprint in Signs and Wonders (London: Variorum Reprints, 1992).

John Wilkinson, Egeria’s Travels (reprint: Aris & Phillips, 1999).





Patricia Cox Miller, ed., Women in Early Christianity: Translations from Greek Texts (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2005).  A comprehensive anthology of key texts, including excerpts from Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Macrina, Palladius' portrait of Melania the Elder, and the anonymous Life of Olympias; rules for widows, catechumens, and deaconesses; accounts of women martyrs (e.g. Blandina) and of Montanist prophetesses; treatises on virginity (by Methodius, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom); panegyrics by Gregory of Nazianzus (on his mother and sister) and John Chrysostom) and denunciations of subintroductae and transvestites; theological materials on Eve and the Virgin Mary.


Ross Shepherd Kraemer, ed., Women’s Religions in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Sebastian Brock & Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Holy Women of the Syrian Orient, Transformation of the Classical Heritage 13 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987).

Elizabeth A. Clark, ed., Women in the Early Church, Message of the Fathers of the Church 13 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1983).

Elizabeth A. Clark, St. Augustine on Marriage and Sexuality, Selections from the Fathers of the Church 1 (Washington, DC: Catholic University Press of America, 1997).

Elizabeth A. Clark & Diane F. Hatch, ed., The Golden Bough, The Oaken Cross: The Virgilian Cento of Faltonia Betitia Proba (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1981).

Bart D. Ehrman, After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).  Contains the Passio Perpetuae and the Acts of Paul & Thecla.

Ross Kraemer & Mary Rose D'Angelo, eds., Women and Christian Origins (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Mary R. Lefkowitz & Maureen B. Fant, Women’s Life in Greece & Rome: A Sourcebook in Translation, 3rd ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2005).

Joan M. Petersen, ed., Handmaids of the Lord: Contemporary Descriptions of Feminine Asceticism in the First Six Christian Centuries, Cistercian Studies 143 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1996).

Benedicta Ward, Harlots of the Desert: A Study of Repentance in Early Monastic Sources, Cistercian Studies (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1987).

Vincent L. Wimbush, ed., Ascetic Behavior in Greco-Roman Antiquity: A Sourcebook (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990).  Translations of valuable but hard-to-find sources, including some which deal with women (Ps-Athanasius’ Life of Blessed Syncletica, the Acts of Thomas).

Karen A. Winstead, trans., John Capgrave: The Life of Saint Katherine of Alexandria,  Notre Dame Texts in Medieval Culture (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011) paperback, $25. NEW.



Revised: December 28, 2013

 Page Content developed by

  William Harmless, SJ