When it appeared in 1989, ""Untold Sisters"" was the first general introduction to Hispanic convent culture published in the United States. Since then, much has been learned about the links among women of differing cultures, orders, and convents, their networks and support systems, their conflicts and rivalries. Most nun-authors lived in convents and were subject to multiple mechanisms of control. They found ways to negotiate, however, the repressive machinery of ecclesiastic and state institutions. ""Untold Sisters"" underscores how role models such as St. Teresa of Avila aided nun-authors in intertwining their personal beliefs with dogma, regardless of their social situations. At the same time that they wanted proximity to God, they sought to authorize speech, both oral and written. Historical changes and geographical distance alter the meanings of written words. The language used by the nuns was common to the writers' regions, generations, and even their particular religious orders. Without this knowledge, it is easy to mistake words or modes of expression - quite common or particular in meaning to an entire community, city, or epoch - as unusual or original. As in the first edition, the editors first study and then anthologize some representative nuns' writings, which are presented in modernized Spanish and English. Revealed here are the contradictions of female monastic life: repression and liberation, obedience and rebellion, conformity and individuality.
Electa Arenal is professor emerita, PhD Program in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages and Women's Studies Certificate Program, City University of New York. She is coeditor of The Answer/La Respuesta, a translator of poetry and prose, and a specialist on Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. Stacey Schlau is professor in the Department of Languages and Cultures, and the Women's Studies program, at West Chester University, Pennsylvania. She is the author of Spanish American Women's Use of the World: Colonial through Contemporary Narratives. Amanda Powell is senior instructor of Spanish, University of Oregon, Eugene.