Even though the Western world is growing steadily more accustomed to hearing reports of suicide terrorism occurring in the Middle East, it is still unnerving to many to hear of a woman carrying out a suicide attack. Despite this, women have always been an integral part of terrorist organizations and religious institutions, although their presence (both contemporary and historical) should not be seen as indicative of greater levels of gender equality. Fundamentalist religions are often highly patriarchal and coercive, often subjecting participating women to highly devalued roles within the structure. In my research, I have found historical data on early Christian female martyrs that reaffirms these sentiments. Female martyrs were iconic and persuasive converters for Christianity, although their deaths were often defined by the men who controlled the church, thus negating the preservation of female martyrs’ true intentions. Many women’s stories have been lost in this fashion; for now, the best option one has for understanding the complexities of the effect religious fundamentalism has on women to provoke them into martyrdom is to continue to study the women who choose such a path.
Ellen Hassel, ’09 Cedar Repids, IA
Majors: Sociology, Politics
Sponsor: Mary Olson