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[–] ProxyMusic 19 points Edited

Women became nuns not just to get a good education, but to escape marriage, childbearing and domestic slavery/servitude and to be able to devote themselves to something other than family. It's not a coincidence that women who became RC nuns began leaving convents in droves in the 1960s and 70s after the birth control pill came on the market, abortion became legalized in many countries, and laws were put in place prohibiting the sorts of sex discrimination that traditionally barred women from many jobs and professions and denied us basic rights.

I have a good nun story: In 1939, my 16-year-old father had his heart broken when his 17-year-old childhood sweetheart whom he was madly in love with dumped him to enter the convent to become a nun. She came from a family of 15 kids - all the girls became nuns because it was the only way they could escape their own mother's fate. In the 1970s, she and her sisters all left the convent. A year or two after my mother died in 1981, my dad's former GF got back in touch with him, said she would soon be visiting the city where he worked - and they arranged to meet for lunch. They hadn't seen each for more than 40 years, but as soon as they saw each other again they fell into each other's arms and started passionately embracing and kissing, completely back in love like no time at all had elapsed. They decided to skip lunch and instead hightailed it back to her hotel room...

That is a good nun story.

My mother's first serious boyfriend became a priest. Decades later (early 1980s?), he left the priesthood and married a nun. My parents were still married ('til death did them part) so no romance, unlike your story. My father was rather jealous and worried, though, when the ex-priest came for a visit.

A lot of men with vocations left them when they couldn't handle the celibacy (loneliness?) and it became more practical to be in a relationship. I hadn't thought of it in terms of BC, though. I just thought it was people wanting to live more authentic lives.

I don't think it was JUST because of BC and didn't mean to suggest that... Sorry I wasn't clearer. I think it was a combination of many factors all at once. After all, even when hormonal forms of BC and other reliable options like IUDs and diaphragms with effective spermicides became available, the RC church still forbade women from using them. Any artificial form of contraception was and still is officially forbidden by the RC church; only natural forms of family planning such as the rhythm method was allowed. And abortion of course is a mortal sin. Of course, many women ignored the BC strictures, whilst others got around them by going on hormonal BC for other medical reasons, which the church allowed.

My impression from all the many ex-nuns I knew is that a great many women who went into the RC convent in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and early-mid 60s did so in large part because the only other life option they felt they had was marriage and the prospect/risk of 25 or so years grueling years of unplanned pregnancies and births and all the physical and mental health tolls and other hardships that repeated pregnancies, labors and childbirth bring. Plus, back when women of those generations were of childbearing age, pregnancies often were the result of unwanted PIV that married women were forced or coerced into. Back then, it wasn't against the law for men in the USA to rape their wives, and RC church doctrine and society in general told married women they had a moral duty to not to reject their husbands' sexual advances and demands.

For many women of earlier generations who were raised observant RC and didn't come from wealthy families, going into the convent was the only feasible option if they wanted a college education and perhaps a graduate degree, desired a job with respect and authority, genuinely felt they had some kind of religious "vocation" or calling, desired live their lives totally childfree, and/or wanted opportunities to to travel and work abroad, and were interested in devoting themselves to charity work and certain kinds of politics. Also, becoming a nun allowed women to live in communal setting with other women that in many ways resembled a sorority - and for the higher ranking nuns, it often meant escaping drudgery of domestic chores too. My dad's GF, who later became his wife, was a college administrator in the US and abroad - and eventually became the dean and president of a prominent women's college. Because of her position, she never had to do any of the domestic work in the convents she lived in. Cooking, cleaning, laundry - all that was done by novitiates and nuns of lower educational aspirations and accomplishments who ranked lower than her in the pecking order.

I didn't think you thought it was just BC. It's just that I hadn't considered it as yet one more factor.

I have a few distant relatives who joined the church, but not that many. At the same time, they stopped having runaway family size many generations ago, and an education was normal for both sexes (my mother, her mother, and her mother all had university degrees). So class/wealth/culture definitely has an impact, something I hadn't thought of. TBH, I think the reason my mother's father was a Jesuit (before he was invalided out) was to get out of law and have a chance to study science. A very different scenario from what you've seen.

That is the sweetest story ever.

I know of more than one ex-priest (r brother)/ex-nun marriage.

Becoming a nun is still a pretty good option for women even today actually... Especially for women who are female separatists since Feminist organizations are getting invaded by TIMs but a Catholic convent is less likely to be invaded by creepy and predatory TIMs the way many secular female spaces are these days... I'm thinking of becoming a nun myself one day just so I can live my days in peace among women...

My aunt was a nun, never left her order and lived to 100. She went on a training course to Boston in the 70s and worked as a teacher trainer (I’m blanking out on the proper name for that) until she retired.

I recently read a book by Gerda Lerner (The Creation of Feminist Consciousness) that touched upon this topic, especially focusing on several women who ended up going on to write and create things that still survive today. It definitely gave them opportunities they wouldn't have otherwise had access to, though often it had to be with the permission of their families, who sometimes had to pay out a sort of dowry to the convent/institution.

It made me wonder how many of them were really actually believers, rather than simply being smart (and privileged) enough to see this as an opportunity for education and a way to get away from the restrictive and dangerous lives they would otherwise have had.

Now that it looks like many areas in the U.S. have had abortion rights sealed off, might more American women become nuns?