The Evolution of Women's Asylums Since 1500: From Refuges for Ex-Prostitutes to Shelters for Battered Women (Studies in the History of Sexuality)

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9780195051643: The Evolution of Women's Asylums Since 1500: From Refuges for Ex-Prostitutes to Shelters for Battered Women (Studies in the History of Sexuality)
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The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Catholic Europe witnessed the growth of new institutions designed to house repentant prostitutes and girls and women at risk of becoming prostitutes. This little-known surge in institution building arose out of the Catholic reform movement and the Counter-Reformation. Cohen presents a portrait of life in three such institutions for women in the Italian cities of Florence and Pistoia. These institutions represented a new residential option for women beyond the traditional options of marriage or convent. They were "asylums" in a dual sense, operating as both sites of internment and shelters from harm. Cohen demonstrates how the multifunctional women's institutions of the early modern era served as the prototypes for a variety of asylums for women that emerged in later centuries--including hostels, homes for unwed mothers, and battered women's shelters. In a major revision of the historiography of social institutions, Cohen argues that the women's institutions of early modern Europe played a pioneering role in developing techniques and institutional forms in the fields of corrections and social welfare.

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About the Author:

Sherrill Cohen, Lecturer in History, Princeton University.

Review:

"Cohen's historical analysis is broadly informed by sociological and feminist theory and adds its own contribution by telling well the complex story of an early modern social invention. Cohen's social history should widen the horizons of sociologists interested in understanding total
institutions and the nature of the social control of women."--Journal of Sociology

"A solidly researched book."--The Historian

"This book combines a comprehensive history of women's asylums from their origins to the present, with a richly textured analysis of three pioneer foundations in early modern Tuscany. The chapters on those institutions contain poignant accounts of the lives and fortunes of marginal women, and
the pressures that impelled them to enter asylums."--Gene Brucker, University of California, Berkeley

"Cohen's book sets the standard for what gender studies should do, because it consistently focuses on what women did, not merely on the constraints they had to face...The author's elegant treatment of the topic should inspire further research and a welcome reexamination of those fields as well
as her own."--Sixteenth Century Journal

"Makes a substantial contribution to the understanding of the history of institutions in the Western World."--Christian Century

"In a major revision of the historiography of social institutions, Cohen argues that the women's institutions of early modern Europe played a pioneering role in developing techniques and institutional forms in the fields of corrections and social welfare."--Choice

"Sherrill Cohen's analysis of women's asylums has much to offer both historians and policy analysts."--Social Service Review

"Cohen combines careful archival work with an unusually broad-ranging analysis of the birth of what Michel Foucault call the 'carcereal archipelago.'"--History of Education Quarterly

"In this book Cohen has given us that most powerful of all stories: a usable past."--Renaissance Quarterly

"Important study."--IARCA Review of Books

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