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Author Topic: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents  (Read 624 times)

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Offline BeorningTopic starter

Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« on: June 15, 2014, 03:09:31 PM »
I'd like to get a nun-related (nunspoitation? heh...) RP started. Because of that, I'm wondering about something...

Basically: in the past, there was this practice of parents choosing spouses for their children, especially daughters. Also (at least if accounts like Diderot's La Religieuse are to be believed), there were also situations when parents forced their daughters into becoming nuns, if they couldn't afford the dowry or couldn't find any suitors for them. I suspect that these two practices were kind of related - there seems to be the same mentality behind them: that the parents can decide about their children's whole adult lives.

Now, I'm wondering: when did exactly this practice end? My gut tells me that, in the 20th century, parents weren't arranging marriages for their children or forcing them into convents anymore. But when did this end, then? After WW2? WW1? Earlier? Were such situations happening in, say, Victorian era?

Does anyone know?

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Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2014, 03:58:12 PM »
What geographical location are you interested in?  The practice of arranged marriages is still common in some Middle Eastern countries, as well as some strongly ethnocentric communities into fairly recent times.  (For example, the musical 'Fiddler on the Roof', which is set in 1905 Imperial Russia, there's a whole sub-plot involving an arranged marriage.)

Offline Sabre

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2014, 04:04:42 PM »
What you're asking for is the history of parental sovereignty.  Forcing daughters into convents or arranged marriages was a question of power of the family over their children, and for most of history the family (usually the head of the family) was supreme in its right to force their children into anything they wanted outside of heresy and treason.

And you're right, the 20th century in most of the West is the period where such deference had been nearly erased.  Nearly.

While it's questionable if 18th and 19th century Catholic parents were actually forcing their unmarried or uncontrollable daughters into convents in noticeable numbers, since such works come from a time where anti-Catholic Gothic stories were all the rage in the Protestant and secular world, if it did happen then the 19th century would likely be the latest one would expect an incident to occur.  With the influence of the Napoleonic Code states across Europe began to pass laws that gradually took control of certain aspects of parental sovereignty like with mandatory public education, child labor laws, and age of consent.  Then women began to demand and earn greater autonomy thanks to movements pushing for suffrage, independent finances, and college-level education.  At the same time the state began to replace the clergy with secular and certified teachers while various social panic movements pushed for reforms to eliminate various ills of society.

So I'd say by the end of the Victorian, and maybe Edwardian, Era is about as late as you'd expect such things to happen.  However, time tends to run slow outside of urban regions and developed nations, and arranged marriages and other forms of sexual domination of children by their parents (or the patriarch/matriarch of the extended family) still occur to this day.  But if it's just concerning nuns, assuming the Catholic variety, then by the 1880s with the First Vatican Council and the tightening, consolidation, and centralization of the Church after it had been removed from various state institutions.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2014, 04:05:53 PM by Sabre »

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2014, 04:38:44 PM »
What geographical location are you interested in?  The practice of arranged marriages is still common in some Middle Eastern countries, as well as some strongly ethnocentric communities into fairly recent times.  (For example, the musical 'Fiddler on the Roof', which is set in 1905 Imperial Russia, there's a whole sub-plot involving an arranged marriage.)

I'm interested in Europe and the States. Although, as the States were never a strongly Catholic country, I don't think that forcing women into convents was an issue there...

While it's questionable if 18th and 19th century Catholic parents were actually forcing their unmarried or uncontrollable daughters into convents in noticeable numbers, since such works come from a time where anti-Catholic Gothic stories were all the rage in the Protestant and secular world, if it did happen then the 19th century would likely be the latest one would expect an incident to occur.

Wait, so... it hasn't happen? Because I was under the impression that, at least in the Middle Ages, it wasn't uncommon for parents to decide that the youngest child will be sent to become a monk or a nun. So, while I tend to disbelieve the more lurid tales of the supposed depravities from the convents, that bit about some of the nuns not really wanting to be there sounded... believeable. Even in centuries after the Middle Ages...

BTW. Speaking of such matters, does anyone know whether the idea of lesbian romances in convents is a total myth or not? I never know...

Quote
So I'd say by the end of the Victorian, and maybe Edwardian, Era is about as late as you'd expect such things to happen.  However, time tends to run slow outside of urban regions and developed nations, and arranged marriages and other forms of sexual domination of children by their parents (or the patriarch/matriarch of the extended family) still occur to this day.  But if it's just concerning nuns, assuming the Catholic variety, then by the 1880s with the First Vatican Council and the tightening, consolidation, and centralization of the Church after it had been removed from various state institutions.

Could you expand on Vatican I? What was decided there, specifically?

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Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2014, 04:52:55 PM »
Information on Vatican I  That's from a Catholic site, and is probably as accurate as you're likely to get.

Offline GypsyRose

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2014, 04:56:59 PM »
By Force and Fear: Taking and Breaking Monastic Vows in Early Modern Europe by Anne Jacobson Schutte

I found some interesting excerpts from this book by searching for 'forced monachization'.  Some of it is readable online thru Google books. It does offer some tidbits as to the procedures in the 1700's provided by the Catholic Church to release people from vows taken unwillingly. 

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2014, 06:44:47 PM »
Thank you, Oniya, and thank you, Briar Rose!

I looked through the excerpts from the book you mentioned, BR. So, it looks like the forced monachization did happen!

(hm, now I feel guilty, because it turns out that I'm happy that a real injustice existed and can be made into a plot bunny. Bad Beorning! *smacks himself in the head*)

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Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2014, 06:55:41 PM »
Thank you, Oniya, and thank you, Briar Rose!

I looked through the excerpts from the book you mentioned, BR. So, it looks like the forced monachization did happen!

(hm, now I feel guilty, because it turns out that I'm happy that a real injustice existed and can be made into a plot bunny. Bad Beorning! *smacks himself in the head*)

Considering the amount of Nazi-themed porn out there, forced monachization is pretty mild as plot bunnies go.

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2014, 06:57:49 PM »
Considering the amount of Nazi-themed porn out there, forced monachization is pretty mild as plot bunnies go.

And yet there is a strange dearth of Nazi Nunsploitation porn.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2014, 07:02:21 PM »
Considering the amount of Nazi-themed porn out there, forced monachization is pretty mild as plot bunnies go.

Yeah, still... maybe I should have wished that these stories weren't true. Grrr. I'm angry with myself.

And yet there is a strange dearth of Nazi Nunsploitation porn.

Oh, I suspect that you could find people interested in Nazi x Nun pairing... :)

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2014, 07:08:22 PM »
Yeah, still... maybe I should have wished that these stories weren't true. Grrr. I'm angry with myself.

Oh, I suspect that you could find people interested in Nazi x Nun pairing... :)

Nazi x Nun isn't hard to find. Nazi Nuns, on the other hand...those are few and far between. ;D

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2014, 07:12:38 PM »
How about Black Nazi Nuns? Nunaziblaxploitation!  ;D

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Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2014, 07:13:48 PM »
I fink ma tongue ish inna knot...

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2014, 07:15:35 PM »
How about Black Nazi Nuns? Nunaziblaxploitation!  ;D

In prison!

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2014, 07:23:42 PM »
In prison!

*falls laughing*

Okay, I can't top that. Still, now I'm tempted to come with a premise for this kind of story...

But alright, back to the thread. I'm still open to input regarding the issue of forced monachization. I really wonder about the 1890s... was it too enlightened time for something like that to happen? Or was it possible even then?

Offline Sabre

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2014, 09:15:51 PM »
The world was always a vast place, and what may be true for one place in one time may not be true for another place in the same time.  It's not as though it's impossible that some unsavory things could happen behind locked doors - they happen all the time even today both outside the Church and within.  People have always been people after all, and Enlightenment didn't quite seem to prevent all the horrors in our world since the 18th century.

As for the Medieval period, yes, anything is possible of course and our relative lack of sources doesn't mean nothing at all unsavory ever happened.  But I would still say that monachization by force would have been rare and likely limited to the political classes.  Becoming a nun or priest was usually an involved process that would have required quite a lot of commitment and investment on the part of the abbey taking one in.  Usually anyone actually imprisoned in a cloister would have remained a lay individual but under house arrest.  Those who were given to the Church because of circumstance - such as being second or third sons or daughters - could usually expect to become powerful political figures in their own right as bishops and abbesses.

But for the most part most women who were on convent land were likely not nuns at all but either lay volunteers or slaves/serfs doing manual labor to support the actual nuns who would have been the social elites of that particular parish.  Prisoners who didn't want to be there would have been pretty rare (and usually important enough for someone to pay to keep them there, like troublesome and powerful royalty).

As for lesbian nuns, well, statistically there should have been a few, no?

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #16 on: June 16, 2014, 09:37:56 AM »
As for the Medieval period, yes, anything is possible of course and our relative lack of sources doesn't mean nothing at all unsavory ever happened.  But I would still say that monachization by force would have been rare and likely limited to the political classes.  Becoming a nun or priest was usually an involved process that would have required quite a lot of commitment and investment on the part of the abbey taking one in.  Usually anyone actually imprisoned in a cloister would have remained a lay individual but under house arrest.  Those who were given to the Church because of circumstance - such as being second or third sons or daughters - could usually expect to become powerful political figures in their own right as bishops and abbesses.

Hm. The book that BR mentioned says something else. The forced monachization was happening both in upper- and middle-class families and wasn't something completely extraordinary...

Quote
As for lesbian nuns, well, statistically there should have been a few, no?

I've heard about that one! :)

I'm still wondering about arranged marriages in 19th century. I know that, in Victorian era, arranged marriages did happen - but how much force was there behind them? Was it just the case of families helping their children to find good spouses, or was it something hard: "You marry this guy or off to nunnery you go!"?

Offline Sabre

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #17 on: June 16, 2014, 12:05:02 PM »
I've read the same book, it's quite good, but the issue is a bit more nuanced than that.  Schutte's work shows how forced monachization was a problem in the early modern era - the 16th and 17th century all the way into the 18th century.  But the problem is absent from the early Medieval church, mostly because inheritance laws in the earlier period usually took into account every child while from the 16th century onwards primogeniture (where the first son inherits everything) became popular among even the middle classes.  The increasing 'privatization' of monasteries of the 17th century in which rich families linked their households to them through regular endowments and legal contracts was most likely the culprit, as was the increasing decentralization of the Church in this period.  The issue was closely linked to the change in aristocratic culture and the increasing size of the Middle Classes which began to adopt these aristocratic pretensions even more jealously than the aristocrats.

Offline GypsyRose

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #18 on: June 16, 2014, 12:18:46 PM »
As for forced marriages ...

You've got to remember that at the time, a girl who didn't marry who her family wanted couldn't go out and get a job, and if she's going against her family's wishes, she couldn't go stay with relatives or apply for assistance.

You don't have to hold a knife to someone's throat to force them to do something.   The threat of being homeless, with no protection whatsoever, and no support -- well, many women had the choice of doing what their families wanted or being thrust into a much worse situation ... if you could call it a choice.

If the family viewed the daughter as an asset to better the family, rather than a person whom they wanted to be happy ...  the girl couldn't even count on societal support.  That would go to the girl's guardian, along with sympathy for having raised an ungrateful, disobedient child.



In the middle ages, being in the clergy was often a MUCH better future for anyone not of the aristocracy than they could otherwise aspire to.  They had shelter, food, a place to belong, protection, medical care, and the chance to learn, and a measure of respect.  It was a step up, and there were fewer 'spots' open than there were those vying to get in (or vying by proxy to get a family member in).
« Last Edit: June 16, 2014, 12:31:54 PM by Briar Rose »

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #19 on: June 16, 2014, 12:47:46 PM »
Again, thank you for all input, you two! All of this is giving me so much inspiration! (now, if only anyone else would be interested in RP this... *grumble grumble*)

I did some reading on Victorian marriages. If I picture it correctly, then it was an era when the forced mochanization should be on the decline? After all, the Victorian courtship rules did put value into the daughters' wishes. Marriages were more about business deals than love, but they weren't purely in the parents' hands anymore. Also, there were more options available for unmarried women. So, a defiant daughter could decide to screw her family and become a governess instead... Am I correct here?
« Last Edit: June 16, 2014, 12:48:56 PM by Beorning »

Offline GypsyRose

Re: Arranged marriages and forcing women into convents
« Reply #20 on: June 16, 2014, 01:30:20 PM »
They could, assuming they had the education.  If they had the education, they then had to find a position -- and in that position they were apart from both family and the other servants and still dependent upon the good nature of the family that took them in.

Their behavior was strictly regulated by another household's wishes, their reputation vital, and their options quite likely less than they would have been to do what their family wished.  They would not be independent -- they would simply be serving another master no more likely to consider their wishes than their parents had been.

Sure, they could've ... but I'm guessing that it would not have been a very popular option for screwing their parents -- no matter what the bodice rippers imply. :-)

Good luck with your game, btw!
« Last Edit: June 16, 2014, 01:31:21 PM by Briar Rose »