In the uniquely urban atmosphere of the twelth and thirteenth centuries in Northern Italy, the conflict between the evolving commercially-based society and anti-commercial religious dogma created a need among the laity for new spiritual responses with which to justify their changing experience. The Humiliati represent one such lay group who chose to disown all worldly goods but remain within their community and work towards its social and moral improvement.Very few works have dealt singularly with the Humiliati, and none have delved specifically into the role of women in the movement. This book examines the contribution of women to the Humiliati movement, providing original archival evidence which indicates that women dominated the groups' membership. These findings have implications for both women's spirituality and women's work, correcting the received opinion that the patriarchical nature of Italian society and of the Church limited the institutional options available to women. It also suggests that women found innovative ways to participate in the increasingly restrictive textile industry of the region. This work provides a glimpse at the novel ways in which in medieval Italy women were able to satisfy their spiritual and economic needs within the confines of a male dominated Church and society.

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