During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Catholic Englishwomen established over 20 Continental convents in order to pursue religious beliefs that were illegal in their home country.2 By placing themselves at such a physical remove from England, these women may appear to have withdrawn into an apolitical sphere where their privacy was only heightened by their enclosure.3 However, recusant nuns provided spiritual and material aid meant to hasten the conversion of England. As Claire Walker has shown, these convents became beacons of English Catholicism, and the nuns’ very survival represented the future restoration of their religion.4 Yet while recent critics have documented the importance of Catholic laywomen, early modern English nuns have received scant attention and no group of these women is as overdue for recognition as the Franciscan nuns.5 Scholars

1 The research for this essay was made possible by generous grants from the American Association of University Women, the Renaissance Society of America, and the Catholic Record Society. Sister Chiara of Jesus, archivist at the Poor Clare monastery in Much Birch, provided much kind assistance.