27 August 2020, The Tablet

Word from the Cloisters: Kindred spirits

Word from the Cloisters: Kindred spirits


WRITING OF the women who managed to “find a way round Rome’s rules” in this week’s Tablet, Joanna Moorhead refers to the extraordinary Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the seventeenth-century Mexican nun and polymath who championed education for women and was ostracised by the bishops.

The illegitimate daughter of a Spanish father and Creole mother, Sor Juana is considered the first great Latin American poet. She wrote plays as well as poetry, taught the girls in the school adjoining the convent music and drama, and looked after the community’s accounts. Her small room was filled with books, maps, and musical and scientific instruments. Clever, independent and uninterested in marriage, it wasn’t long before she was in trouble with the Church.

According to a forthcoming book by Times journalists Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire, Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn (Bodley Head, £18.99), Laura Alvarez, the Mexican wife of Jeremy Corbyn, surreptitiously passed the beleaguered Meghan Markle a collection of Sor Juana’s work (probably the selection put together by the translator Edith Grossman) at the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in March.

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