Women Missing in Church History: Filling Out the Historical Record – Week 5

This article is part of the series Pursuing Partnership: Men and Women in Ministry.

Based on Women in the Mission of the Church, by Dzubinski/Stasson
(Used by permission: Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2021)

A Taste of Chapter 3: Mothers, Sisters, Empresses, and Queens
By Rebecca Hopkins www.rebeccahopkins.org

Monica prayed for her son. She prayed when he started studying philosophy. She prayed when he joined a group of non-Christians. She prayed when he moved far away from home. Then finally, he became a Christian. And soon, he became a very famous Christian. [1]

Monica was the mother of St. Augustine. And her prayers, faith, and wisdom influenced not only her own son, but a monastic community of men.

“She had lived a long, faithful life of Christian discipleship, which gave her an authority that the younger men lacked,” wrote the authors of “Women in the Mission of the Church, Their Opportunities and Obstacles throughout Christian History.”[2]

Monica’s story and those of other little-known mothers, sisters, queens and empresses are told in chapter three of the book by university professor Leanne Dzubinski and historian Anneke Stasson.

These women may not have held specific positions in the church. They may have even happened largely in the home. But their influence reached generations of men and women with the Gospel. The authors hope to remind the modern church of the partnership of men and women in the history of the church.

“These women influenced the development of theology and church practices, sometimes through their own imperial authority and sometimes through their relationships with male relatives who were church and political leaders,” the authors wrote. “In some cases, these men might not have even become church leaders if not for a women’s influence in their lives.”[3]

Nonna, Emmelia and Anthusa are three other mothers whose sons went on to become theologians. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates these women with a feast day each year. [4]

Sometimes younger women either had to raise their siblings when their own mother died, or played a hand in helping their living mother shape their siblings’ lives.  Macrina made the choice to not marry after her betrothed died. When her father died, she helped her mother and became a leader in her family. Three of her brothers became bishops and a fourth became a monk.[5]

Christian queens of medieval Europe played a part in converting their pagan husbands and their communities to Christianity. For example, Clotilda became the spiritual advisor for her husband, King Clovis. The Roman Empire saw similar female influencers as empresses. One example is Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine. She sometimes served as a trusted diplomat and played a role in the Christianization of the empire.[6]

For many years, these women’s names were known, their stories celebrated and their faith venerated. Later, they were largely forgotten. But now is the time to remember again.

[1] Leanne Dzubinski, Anneke Stasson, “Women in the Mission of the Church, Their Opportunities and Obstacles throughout Christian History” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2021), 65.

[2] Dzubinski, Stasson, “Women in the Mission of the Church,” 65.

[3] Dzubinski, Stasson, “Women in the Mission of the Church,” 81.

[4] Dzubinski, Stasson, “Women in the Mission of the Church,” 68.

[5] Dzubinski, Stasson, “Women in the Mission of the Church,” 63, 66.

[6] Dzubinski, Stasson, “Women in the Mission of the Church,” 69, 74.

This article is submitted by Wendy Wilson of Missio Nexus and of Women’s Development Track.  Women’s Development Track is a Missio Nexus member.  Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

Related Articles

Welcoming the Stranger

Presenter: Matthew Soerens, US Director of Church Mobilization, World Relief Description: Refugee and immigration issues have dominated headlines globally recently. While many American Christians view these…


Upcoming Events