to God; the depiction of an all-female trinity disappeared from religious pamphlets, replaced by illustrations of Mary with both of her parents.
In Italian cities, Catholic reformers began to open institutional asylums for repentant prostitutes (convertite), and also asylums for women who were felt to be at risk of turning to prostitution or losing their honour, such as orphans, poor unmarried women and widows, or those whose marriages had failed, called malmaritate. Women in these institutions were taught basic skills with which to support themselves, usually weaving, and given large doses of religious and moral instruction. The drive to cloister all women's communities affected them as well, though some were able to remain uncloistered, with the residents even allowed to keep any wages earned, because it was seen as so important to prevent the women from landing back on the streets. In Catholic theory marriage was indissoluble, but in practice the Malmaritate houses offered women who had been abandoned or victimized by their husbands a respectable place to live, an alternative that was unavailable in Protestant areas.
No Catholic author went so far as to recommend that Catholic wives leave Protestant husbands, but in practice Catholic authorities put fewer blocks in the path of a woman who did. Catholic writers were also more open in their support of women working to convert their Protestant or indifferent husbands than were continental Protestant writers, or even of daughters converting or inspiring their parents: 'Young girls will reform their families, their families will reform their provinces, their provinces will reform the world'.12 The confessional box came to be used more widely during this period, for the Counter-Reformation church sawprivate confession as a way to combat heresy. Catholic women married to Protestant men could find in the priest hearing their confession a man who could give them a source of authority to overrule or disobey their husbands. The husbands recognized this, for court records in Venice indicate that men charged with heresy often beat their Catholic wives after they came home from confession.
England and Ireland provided the most dramatic example of the importance of Catholic women's domestic religious activities. In 1559 Queen Elizabeth ordered that everyone attend services in the Anglican Church or be penalized with fines or imprisonment. Many English and Irish Catholics outwardly conformed, but others did not, becoming what were termed 'recusants'. Among these was a large percentage of women, who posed a special problem for royal officials. A single woman or widow found guilty of recusancy could be fined,
12 Quoted in Rapley, Devotes, p. 157.
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