Volume IV, 2004
Dr. Michael Francis
In sixteenth-century Spain, women were among the individuals in society with the most limits placed on their behavior, and with the least ability to practice self-determination.
Since social and religious norms are interrelated and influence each other, their twin ladders of social mobility are also related. Some courageous women created for themselves upward social mobility by using the separate hierarchy of religious devotion. Since ecstatic religious experience and special access to the holy were regarded as a gift from God, this religious hierarchy could be described as level of access to the holy and was less defined and more fluid than traditional class hierarchies. Female mystics could provide a better life for themselves through their piety, and could also give help in the form of special access to the holy to their communities. Any woman wishing to use the ladder of religious devotions to move up or out of her own social status could do so as long as she stayed close enough to defined orthodox positions. If the woman did not adhere closely enough to either religious orthodoxy or social conformity, then she was likely to face condemnation by the Inquisition.
Ralph, Allison, "Censured Mystics: Expression and Accusation in Sixteenth Century Spain" (2004). All Volumes (2001-2008). Paper 85.