Researcher ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Fall 2020

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Religion, PhD


School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Nicola Denzey Lewis

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Karen Torjesen

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Bishop Kyrillos

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.


Coptic Church, Coptic Women, Cultural Studies, Female Saints, Gender Equality, USA, Egypt

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | History | Religion


This study addresses the lack of research concerning Coptic female experience and Coptic female saints through the use of in-depth interviews of 21 Egyptian Coptic women living in Southern California and 21 Egyptian Coptic women living in Egypt. The interviews explore women’s relationships with, and knowledge of their female saints, as well as their gendered experiences within the Coptic Church, as it relates to gender and the relative importance or honor of female saints. Results show that Coptic women have a special and unique relationship with the female saints of their tradition, who act as role models, intercessors, and friends. Coptic women expressed a wide variety of opinions about and lessons from female saints that are not consistent with Coptic women’s own gendered experiences within their religion. While all women expressed a commitment to their religion’s ideals, many also expressed frustration with a lack of gender equality and representation in the Coptic Church, especially as it relates to leadership positions and opportunities to serve. A key finding of this study was the influence of culture on a willingness to identify or criticize patriarchal norms within the church. Those in cultures more accepting of feminism more likely to show criticism or call for reform, and those living in highly patriarchal societies more likely to express acceptance of patriarchal norms within their religion.