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THEO 431 - Women in the Early Church: Getting Started

A guide to library resources about the lives and roles of Christian women in the first centuries.

CLICsearch Catalog

CLICsearch is the library catalog of six private colleges and universities in the Twin Cities, including Saint Thomas. Books from other campuses can be requested online and delivered to the St. Thomas library of your choice.

Roman Woman in Egypt

Great Authors

Women Martyrs in the Early Church

Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs

Saint Thecla


Women and the Early Church

The role of women in the early centuries of Christianity has become the subject of intense interest and scholarship. This guide is designed to help beginners start their research projects using library resources both online and in print. 

Off Campus Access


Online databases and electronic journals subscribed to by the UST Libraries are licensed for use by the St. Thomas community ONLY.  Because of this restriction, we need to verify that anyone accessing these databases is a current member of the St. Thomas community.

Creighton Website

Library Research Guides by other UST Librarians

Check out these guides later to expand your topic.

New Books

Subject Guide

Betsy Polakowski's picture
Betsy Polakowski

Theological Librarian / Collection Management Services

Subject Liaison to Theology, St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity

Archbishop Ireland Memorial Library

O Filii et Filiae. 15th century Latin hymn. Read the English text.

[Ancient illustration from the Catacombs]

Questions for theological reflection papers:

Consider this: Can you find references to women in this 15th century hymn "O Filii et Filiae"?

Press the blue hyperlink above that says "O Sons and Daughters" and reflect on this Christian hymn, which is centuries old.  Choose a question from those listed below.  Watch this video over and over as you reflect. What would you tell your sisters, daughters or aunts who have gathered to bury your grandmother about why the lives of women in the early church mattered to Jesus?

Consider this:  Ask your professor why the Latin words for sons and daughters have different endings?  Is this true in Hebrew and Greek?

Consider this: What does the word "witness" mean in Christian history?  Did women witness anything that is significant to Christians in the early church that is still significant to Christians today?  What did they see?  What did they do?  What language did they speak?  Who tells us about them? 

Consider this: What was the world like at the time these women lived?  What was the political situation of the time? Was Jerusalem occupied by a conqueror?  Would Roman women later listen to the women who witnessed Jesus' death and resurrection?  Who were these early mothers of the church?  Were they strong?  Why?  Does the Christian Tradition teach us that thoughtful women helped build the church?  Does studying these women's lives help the laity learn anything significant?  What do the lives of these women tell women today about the church?

Consider this: Words like King and Lord meant everything to the writer of this hymn in the 15th century.  Why?

Consider this: To whom did the angels proclaim the good news of the resurrection in this hymn, which reflects the words of Christian Scripture? Which passages from Scripture speak about this?  The Gospel of Luke is known as Mary's Gospel.  What passages in Luke apply to women?  What passages in the Acts provide an outstanding snapshot of how women responded to the good news?  Has the work of these women been included in the sacred tradition of the church, or can theological researchers help us see the role of women in the early church more clearly? 

Consider this: What act of mercy did Jesus ask three women to perform to prepare his body for the Transfiguration?

Consider this: What is the significance of the women discovering this great mystery of faith on the first day of the Sabbath?

Consider this: In this 15th century hymn, does Christ proclaim peace to all, or only men, or only women?

Consider this: Could reflecting on the lives of grieving widows in the Mediterranean world of Jesus provide us with a spiritual legacy for today?