A Biography

By Gail Porter Mandell

Subjects: Autobiography, Biography And Memoir
Paperback : 9780791434406, 319 pages, July 1997
Hardcover : 9780791434390, 319 pages, July 1997

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


Preface: At Last

1. The Harness-Maker's Daughter

2. I Go to School

3. Away from Home

4. Finding Peace

5. An Unlikely Candidate

6. Learning Holy Indifference

7. Patrins

8. Penelope

9. Procrustes' Bed

10. This Other Eden

11. Harnessing Her Will

12. Narrow Gates

13. Educating Women

14. In the Country of the Soul

15. The Relaxed Grasp

16. Giving Beauty Back

17. Sister Death


Selected Publications


Madeleva was a close friend of C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Jacques Maritain, and Clare Booth Luce. This book paints a picture of daily life in communities of religious women and explores the inner life of a passionately spiritual woman who was known as an advocate for women in the church as well as a scholar, poet, and essayist.


Before her death in 1964, Madeleva Wolff, CSC (Congregation of the Holy Cross), was recognized as one of American Catholicism's most extraordinary women. Known as an educator who founded the School of Sacred Theology (the first and, for more than a decade, the only institution to offer graduate degrees in theology to women) Madeleva was also renowned as a scholar, mystical poet, and the author of more than twenty books. Educated at Berkeley and Oxford, she participated in the Catholic Revival of the early part of the twentieth century and established a center of Christian culture and educational innovation at Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, where she was president for twenty-seven years. Her friendships with C. S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Jacques Maritain, Charles Du Bos, and Clare Boothe Luce, among others, put her in touch with a wide range of Christian intellectuals. As a spokeswoman for the education of women and an advocate for the improvement of the status of women in the church, Madeleva anticipated the women's movement of the late 1960s and the reforms of Vatican II by more than a generation. This biography tells her compelling story and sheds new light on the history of a religious life and religious communities, as well as women's education, writing, and lives.

Gail Porter Mandell is Professor of Humanistic Studies at Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana. Her previous work includes The Phoenix Paradox: A Study of Renewal Through Change in the Poetry of D. H. Lawrence and Madeleva: One Woman's Life. She was the 1987-88 recipient of the Lilly Open Fellowship (awarded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. for the study of biography).


"Madeleva is an important figure for her place in the history of religious life, women's studies, literary studies, and the history of the education of women. " -- Ritamary Bradley, St. Ambrose University

"This biography of one of American Catholicism's most extraordinary women is a story of a life told in clear prose and with evident affection. An excellent and brisk-paced biography of an extraordinarily gifted woman. " -- Lawrence S. Cunningham, University of Notre Dame