Authors of the Blog: Dina Gillham and Ella Sahivirta
Dina Gillham joined the University of Helsinki in January 2022 studying for a PhD in Theology and Religious Studies, Department of Church History. Gillham’s PhD research question focuses on the dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary and how this dogma affected women in late antiquity, specifically women’s roles in the church communities. Gillham’s analysis has three objectives. First, by investigating how the theological ideas of Mary arise from attempts to historize her as the perpetual virgin. Second, examining the suspected link between pagan Greco-Roman virgin goddesses and the idea of perpetual virginity in the early church. Third, analysing how women in the early Christian communities had a variety of active roles, however, this changed as the church developed into patriarchal institutionalized Christianity. Gillham’s motivation for writing this blog springs from the research into the lives of women who lived in late antiquity and used their power and influence to shape the lives of people in their communities.
Gillham’s project has been generously funded by a one-year personal working grant from the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation.
Gillham’s PhD research supervisors:
Ella Sahivirta has been employed at the University of Helsinki since January of 2021 to complete her PhD dissertation in Theology and Religious Studies, Department of Church History. Sahivirta’s research focuses on seven women from the top of Western Roman society from the years 370-420 C.E, and examines how the concept of asceticism, especially in regard to aristocratic women, became a tool for promoting a superior religious status in the Roman Empire of the late 4th century. Sahivirta focuses on why these interconnected group used asceticism and especially the idea of the holy virgin to claim religious authority and to gain a foothold in the developing early Catholic church. This research has shown that we know very little about the history of the many Roman women who influenced the defining cultural shifts of this fascinating time period between classical and medieval. Sahivirta’s aim with this blog is to bring these women’s stories to light, and share information to the general public about the forgotten influencers of European cultural history.
Sahivirta’s PhD research supervisors: