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Catherine of Siena (1347-80) rejected convention to follow her conscience. At 16 Catherine’s parents expected her to marry her sister’s widower but she refused. She became a nun, and helped the ill and poor of her hometown, Siena. By her early twenties Catherine was traveling across Italy preaching and had gained fame for her scholarship. Unusually for a medieval woman, Catherine became involved in political matters and corresponded with powerful figures calling for peace and reform.

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