I am reading some books by/about Sr Helen Prejean, and in one, came across the following assertion regarding the founding of her religious community, The Sisters of St Joseph, in France, circa 1650:
The first members of the order dressed like widows because their initial mission was to take care of homeless children, and widows were the only women who could move through the streets unaccompanied.
Sister Helen The Spiritual Journey of Sister Helen Prejean CAROL LEE FLINDERS, Ph. D 2012
Were French women as socially constrained as this suggests? I can understand unmarried women requiring a chaperon/e, but would respectable matrons not be able to move about freely, to shop, visit, attend church etc?