On December 7, 2020, Mary Anne Gonzales, successfully defended her thesis, "Charitable Communities: Beguines and Charity in Later Medieval Douai, 1218-1360."
Mary Anne's dissertation examines the caregiving roles of lay female penitents, specifically those called beguines, and their engagement with their urban communities within the framework of charity, which entailed a series of expectations and mutual obligations between providers and recipients of social assistance. The study focuses on the town of Douai and situates both the town and its beguines within the urban landscape, commercial economy, and the hospital movement in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The examination of final testaments, financial agreements, and charters from this period reveals that the inabilities of local communities to provide social assistance to its most vulnerable members have shaped the social functions, identity, and significance of beguines as caregivers. As the concept of identity in the study of lay female penitents is a highly contested subject among medieval historians, the contribution of this dissertation is its emphasis that the women’s identity was a product of the social needs and expectations of their urban community.
“On behalf of everyone in the Tri-U, I wish to congratulate Dr Gonzales on her recent PhD defence. The Tri-U is proud of her success," affirms Dr. Jane Nicholas, Tri-University History program director.
Mary Anne is working on publishing articles from her dissertation as well as presentations that draw on her research. She plans to present at the January Gender and Medieval Studies Conference (2021) and the International Congress on Medieval Studies to be held later this spring.
"I am looking forward to applying to several post-docs in the future with the intent of pursuing research on the spatial relationship of medieval people with gardens," Mary Anne says. "In particular, I am interested in examining the healing qualities and purposes of medieval gardens for the people who had access to these spaces."
While based at the University of Guelph, Mary Anne's research drew on faculty expertise across the Tri-U Program. Her co-supervisors were Dr. Elizabeth Ewan and Dr. Peter A. Goddard from Guelph, with Dr. Chris L. Nighman from Laurier serving on her committee.