In this fine-grained study of nonelite women's lives and contributions to the Catholic Church in Guatemala from the late seventeenth to the nineteenth century, Brianna Leavitt-Alcántara demonstrates the interpretative potential and problems of historical analysis. Forthright about the challenges of studying sources that do not necessarily reveal a clear road map to historical narratives, she interjects her book with statements like “There is no tidy explanation for what happened to laboring women in nineteenth-century Guatemala City” (p. 200). With a pithy epilogue, she also exhibits how historical analysis can suggest contemporary interpretations. After building a compelling argument about how working-class women undergirded the colonial Catholic Church, she harnesses that analysis to explain how their financial contributions and participation buoyed the church when nineteenth-century liberal governments sought to undermine it. She then considers the early twentieth-century florescence of Catholic organizations and suggests that...
Book Review|May 01 2019
David Carey; Alone at the Altar: Single Women and Devotion in Guatemala, 1670–1870. Hispanic American Historical Review 1 May 2019; 99 (2): 366–367. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182168-7370434
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