Women Breaking Boundaries

A Grail Journey, 1940-1995

By Janet Kalven

Subjects: Women In Religion
Paperback : 9780791443323, 347 pages, October 1999
Hardcover : 9780791443316, 347 pages, October 1999

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


Personal Prologue: I Discover the Grail

Introduction: Women Breaking Boundaries

Part I: Planting the Seeds, 1940–1951

1. Grail Beginnings: The Germinal Ideas and the Pioneers
2. Doddridge Farm: Novitiate for the Laity, 1940–1943
3. Women in Search of Autonomy: The Move to Grailville, 1943–1944
4. Grailville—A Countercultural Oasis
5. Grailville—A Center of the Lay Apostolate

Part II: Fast Women in a Slow Church, 1951–1964

6. Deepening the Roots: Establishing the Grail Nucleus, 1951
7. "Get Six City Centers:" Expansion Coast to Coast, 1951–1964
8. Laywomen to the Missions, 1950–1964

Part III: Winds of Change, 1964–1975

9. Tumultuous Changes and Creative Responses
10. Aggiornamento in the Grail
11. The Costs of Change

Part IV: Coming of Age: Seeds of Hope, 1975–1995

12. From Alternative Education to Feminist Pedagogy
13. From Feminist Actions to Feminist Consciousness
14. From Secularism to Social Analysis
15. From Lay Missions to Multicultural Exchanges
16. From Religious Certainty to Religious Search

Epilogue: People, Problems, and Promise

Appendix: The United States Grail in Its International Context


Select Bibliography


Through memoir, interviews, and historical overview, chronicles the evolution in the U. S. of the Grail—an organization of Catholic lay women dedicated to restoring the Christian spirit to all aspects of life.


Through memoir, interviews, and historical overview, Women Breaking Boundaries chronicles the evolution in the United States of the Grail—an organization of Catholic lay women dedicated to restoring the Christian spirit to all aspects of life. Janet Kalven, who has been part of the movement since its inception in the early 1940s, traces its development through 1995.

Janet Kalven, a founding member of Grailville, is Co-chair of the Grail Women Task Force. She has published many works including With Both Eyes Open: Seeing Beyond Gender (coedited with Patricia A. Johnson).


"The Grail story, as told by Janet Kalven, is an inspiration and an education to all who seek to create international, justice-oriented lives and communities. This book shows how 'fast women in a slow church' make all the difference. A great read about a great group!" — WATERwheel

"What is important about this book is that it documents an extraordinary movement in twentieth-century Catholicism and women's spirituality. This movement, with its roots in Europe and its strength in the U. S., reached out to women throughout the world. It was a movement of religious women who were independent, who controlled their work, their organization, and their mission. While documenting the Grail, the book also enriches our understanding of American Catholic history for many decades of this century, a history that is only now being written. " — Dana Greene, editor of Evelyn Underhill: Modern Guide to the Ancient Quest for the Holy

"This is the history of the American Grail as only Janet Kalven could have written it, whose own personal history has been so deeply interwoven with the history of this remarkable movement of American women. To read the story of the American Grail is to read much of the history of progressive Catholicism in the United States in the last fifty-five years. " — Rosemary Radford Ruether, Garrett Evangelical Theological School

"Women Breaking Boundaries is not simply an absorbing and beautifully-written account of an important global women's movement within the Catholic Church, it is also an inspiring narrative about what an originally small group of dedicated and visionary women has been able to accomplish. In this period of cynicism and demoralization, it is a strong reminder that individuals committed to social and religious change can make a difference. " — Judith Plaskow, author of Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective