Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville

Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville

Mothers and Sisters in Troubled Times
Phyllis M. Martin
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/06/2009
Format: Paperback 13 b&w photos, 3 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-22055-4
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Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville explores the changing relationship between women and the Catholic Church from the establishment of the first mission stations in the late 1880s to the present. Phyllis M. Martin emphasizes the social identity of mothers and the practice of motherhood, a prime concern of Congolese women, as they individually and collectively made sense of their place within the Church. Martin traces women's early resistance to missionary overtures and church schools, and follows their relationship with missionary Sisters, their later embrace of church-sponsored education, their participation in popular Catholicism, and the formation of women's fraternities. As they drew together as mothers and sisters, Martin asserts, women began to affirm their place in a male-dominated institution. Covering more than a century of often turbulent times, this rich and readable book examines an era of far-reaching social change in Central Africa.

Author Bio

Phyllis M. Martin is Professor Emeritus of History at Indiana University Bloomington. She is editor (with Patrick O'Meara) of Africa (IUP, 1995) and author of Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville.


“Exploring the changing relationship between women and the Catholic Church from the late 1880s to the present, this rich and readable book examines an era of far-reaching social change in Central Africa, as women individually and collectively made sense of their place within the Church.”

“A fine book and a worthy contribution to the expanding scholarship on women and missions. Martin is especially adept at providing the broad strokes of historical, political, and economic context for her readers.”
 — Dorothy L. Hodgson, author of The Church of Women

“This reviewer finds Martin’s book comprehensive, fascinating, informative, and well-written; it is a useful resource for history scholars and students as well as those interested in understanding the colonial and post-colonial history of African women in Congo-Brazzaville . . .V.109.437”
 — Dominic Pasura, University of Huddersfield

“[A]n excellently researched book . . . Historians, students, and scholars of African mission history have much to learn from [it]. Reader friendly, with helpful maps and illustrations, it utilizes archival, oral, and secondary sources.”
 — International Bulletin of Missionary Research

“This book is a first-rate religious and women's history, but it is much more than that. While it is one of the first social histories of Catholicism in either Congo, it is also a compelling cultural history of an African postcolonial state. October 2010”
 — American Historical Review

“Martin has knitted extensive archival research, keen historical awareness of broader Congolese history, cultural insights captured in Kongolese proverbs and other anthropological sources, and personal interviews to deliver an intriguing story. . . . The history of Africa, and especially of African Christianity, needs many more studies like this one. Vol. 42.3”
 — International Journal of African Historical Studies

“This is a mission history book that will be of value to every mission historian . . . . I recommend [it] . . . .#41 April 2009”
 — MISSIOLOGY: Intnl Review

“Martin, . . . an authority on the history of west-central Africa, has written a highly readable history of Catholic women in Congo-Brazzaville. . . . A thoughtful and thought-provoking book.October 2009”
 — Choice

“Given its careful research, significance, and engaging prose, Catholic Women of Congo-Brazzaville will not only prove to be an essential text for scholars exploring these issues, but will also make an excellent teaching text for graduate and undergraduate courses. ”
 — Mission Studies

“By putting women's motivations and experiences front and centre, Martin offers a rigorous study of Catholic evangelization that eschews the hagiography that often bogs down many works on missionaries. The result is a clearly written and well-researched book based on extensive archival material that brings some of Martin's characters into vivid detail. Vol. 52.2, 2011”
 — Journal of African History

“[Phyllis Martin's] inspiring study of Catholic women in the Congo offers many critical insights for historians of equatorial Africa, of Christianity, and of gender identities. Vol. 54.1, April 2011”
 — African Studies Review

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations

1. Mothers at Risk
2. The First Generation
3. Means of Transition
4. Religious Sisters and Mothers
5. Toward a Church of Women
6. Women Together
Epilogue: Mothers and Sisters in War and Peace