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Book Review: Mary and Early Christian Women: Hidden Leadership

Author: Ally Kateusz

Publisher: 2019 Palgrave Macmillan Open Access Publication

Amazon rates it #1 in Christian Leadership and in Christian Church History (Kindle Store) and Feminist Christian Theology

Genre: Christian history, theology, non-fiction

190 pages of text and 105 pages of notes, references, and index for a total of 295 pages

book cover
Mary and Early Christian Women: Hidden Leadership

Author's purpose and approach:

Closely examines Mary, the mother of Jesus, her character and if she was submissive and obedient as she is so often portrayed by men who want women to be submissive and obedient.

“The overarching goal of this study was to demonstrate how our false imagination of the past impedes our interpretation of ancient artifacts that depicted Christian women as ministerial and Eucharistic leaders.”

Evidence points to Mary and Jesus paired in liturgies, to women being apostles and leaders in the assembly, including women bishops, and women at the offering and alter tables, made in God’s image per Gen 1:27 and Gal 3:28

Palgrave Macmillan publishers write:

This book reveals exciting early Christian evidence that Mary was remembered as a powerful role model for women leaders—women apostles, baptizers, and presiders at the ritual meal. Early Christian art portrays Mary and other women clergy serving as deacon, presbyter/priest, and bishop. In addition, the two oldest surviving artifacts to depict people at an altar table inside a real church depict women and men in a gender-parallel liturgy inside two of the most important churches in Christendom—Old Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the second Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Dr. Kateusz’s research brings to light centuries of censorship, both ancient and modern, and debunks the modern imagination that from the beginning only men were apostles and clergy.

This book is open access under a CC BY-NC-ND license. #FREE free book; free download:

Women Were Leaders in the Early Church

The author reveals the true history of women in leadership. The facts she presents confirm that the early church was composed of both male and female leaders. She points out that the ancient church held both men and women as equals. She gives accurate details of history and art in the first century. The book is an informative presentation of the culture and organizational structures of the early church.

The author strives to show through early Christian art and ancient writings that women regularly participated in the leadership of churches and in officiating the sacraments of communion and baptism.

The author presents information on Mary Magdalene and how she was thought of in early Christian history. There is no doubt whatsoever that she and other women were, at one time, leaders in the Christian community. History is written by the victors, and over time historians wrote out women.

Women's Leadership was Deliberately Hidden or Altered.

The author gives evidence that male church leaders later tried to hide evidence of women in church leadership through deliberate deception. Hiding the evidence of women in church leadership has had consequences that still reverberate today in the subordination of women.

Books and manuscripts that referenced women holding positions of importance were destroyed or burned as heresy, or discounted by being excluded from the canon.

The book also covers the subject of early art and how in some pieces there is no doubt that both men and women were involved in religious rituals such as baptizing new believers, serving the Eucharist, and presiding over funerals. Over time, though, many of those art pieces were destroyed or buried. History was rewritten, again removing women from their position of importance. The author reveals that reports of women apostles were destroyed or banned from distribution. You can read these reports of women apostles in her book.

Other Evidence

In 1916 the Holy Office prohibited any depictions of Mary garbed in priestly clothing. With a reopening of relations between East and West, Marian icons and statues spread everywhere. Thus marian art became a means of drawing people closer to Mary as their great intercessor with God. And in this drawing closer to the Mother of God we have the beginning of the awareness of Mary's presence in our midst. Throughout this period there was much theological study of Mary's role in the redemptive work of Christ and of Mary's intercession as Mediatrix of All Grace. In 1950 we have the solemn definition of Mary's Assumption by Pius XII bringing this second period to an all-time high.

In 1965 Vatican II demoted Mary and her statues were moved. This was the year of the Second Vatican Council when Catholics voted in favour of endorsing deacons being married allowing ecumenical ties with non-Catholics and allowing common worship. They threw out the declaration of Virgin Mary as the mediator of all graces. Some argued that she be a co-redeemer with Jesus in God’s plan and that she be named the Mother of the Church. Others wanted to show Mary as an integral member of God’s people, a model member of the church, an example of discipleship

Since the Catholic church was the only one that existed in the first few centuries of the early church, the author writes from a Catholic perspective. Her research includes women priests, bishops, nuns, and saints.

This is an academic study, drawing on many available ancient sources. Since many of the ancient manuscripts discussing women in leadership are not included in the canon of the Bible, the research draws on extra-biblical texts, gnostic texts and archeological evidence,

Highly Recommended Reading!

Setting aside negativity around the Roman Catholic Church and the gnostic texts will allow the reader to see the strong evidence of the Hidden Women Leadership in the early church.

I found so much interesting history in this book that I have done several blogs about it.

1) Mary the mother of Jesus: More than a Mother

2) Art Preserves Mary as a Liturgical Leader

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