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Graduate Early Modern Student Society Lecture

April 14 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

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“They Have Been United as Sisters: Women Leaders of Black Lay Confraternities in Seventeenth-Century Lima”

Marcella Hayes
Assistant Professor of History

Thursday, April 14, 2022
4:00 PM
Curti Lounge, 5233 Humanities Bldg.

In Lima in the seventeenth century, both free and enslaved black women held elected leadership roles in black lay confraternities (corporate bodies of lay Catholics). These women occupied a public position generally reserved for men; their Spanish and indigenous counterparts did not occupy similar roles. Though their experiences have not been documented in modern scholarly literature, they played a very important, highly visible role. In ecclesiastical court, they acted as the confraternity’s legal agents; in everyday operations, they were primarily responsible for collecting and managing funds. This gave them a say in how money ought to be spent, whether on festivals, members’ funerals, care for the sick, or financial support for imprisoned members. Though black limeños made up a majority of the city’s population, other forms of mutual aid and support were often inaccessible to them; confraternity leaders in general, and these women in particular, played a crucial role in managing one of their community’s only officially-recognized outlets for civic organization. As the century wore on, male confraternity members successfully challenged the women’s authority in court. Yet even in their curtailment, these positions enabled black women in Lima a degree of publicly acknowledged power highly unusual for early modern women.

Sponsored by The Department of History



April 14
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
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Curti Lounge (Rm 5243 Mosse Humanities Bldg)
455 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706 United States
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