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Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary (PEMM) project

Miracles of Mary Stories about Gender & Power

By Wendy Laura Belcher

January 31, 2024

Many miracles of Mary stories are about the issues that women face in societies where they do not hold much power. The focus is often on their role as family members (especially as mothers) but some stories feature women leaders or rebels.

If you identify a PEMM story about gender and power and we do not list it below, please let us know by emailing us. Stories are listed only once below, even if it is about more than one type of woman. Instructors may also email us to receive a lesson plan for teaching about gender and power in the medieval African folktale.

Desperate Mothers 

A widow who could not find husbands for her three daughters

A Cairo woman's daughter, who lived by the Nile river and became blind due to too much reading and study but was healed by the Virgin Mary

Oppressed Wives

A woman who was prevented from fasting by her husband and temporarily received her treasure on earth instead of heaven

Paraleya from Iyyoram, who was beaten by her husband because she was childless.

Women Out for Revenge

A divorced wife who prayed for revenge against her husband's new wife but was refused because the new wife was devoted to the Virgin Mary

A husband broke his vow to live celibately with his wife and the wife cursed him by saying any resulting child would belong to Satan

A man who suspected a former wife of having burned down his house

Murderous Women

A woman from the city of Rome who killed the baby she bore after sleeping with her son

A woman who had poisoned her sister and married her husband is swallowed up by the earth when she anoints herself with the oil that flowed from the Virgin Mary's icon.

A woman marries seven times, but each time her husband is killed by a demon.

The beautiful daughter of the Frankish king is saved from her wicked stepmother by the Virgin Mary

Women Leaders 

King Menelik (Menilek) II, the 19th c. Ethiopian monarch, and his Life: Part 5: He marches with his wife Taitu into battle against the Italians and defeats them in the Battle of Adwa

Dabra Zamaddo's Lady Mahdara Maryam and how the Virgin Mary claimed her house as a church

King Amda Seyon (Amda tseyon) I, the 14th c. Ethiopian monarch: Part 8: In the campaign of 1322 CE, with the help of the Virgin Mary, one of the king's wives prays to the Virgin Mary for his safe return

Emperor Tiberius's wife convinces him to make the Virgin Mary queen of Rome and Jesus takes her away to prevent that

Our Lady Mary as Leader

Most of the stories in the Nagara Maryam feature Mary as a strong, fearless, and magically powerful woman. They are well worth studying together.


The punishment of an Ethiopian woman who swore falsely that she had not committed adultery with another woman's husband.

Dabra Zamaddo's Abbot Abuna Yohanne's persuades a husband to give up his second wife and be reconciled to his first

A greedy priest ignored a pious dying woman to visit a dying man, a lover of bribes, and gain his wealth

pricenton ethiopian eritrean & egyptian miracles of marry project

The Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary (PEMM) project is a comprehensive resource for the 1,000+ miracle stories written about and the 2,500+ images painted of the Virgin Mary in these African countries, and preserved in Geʿez between 1300 and the present.

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