Born Juana de Asbaje in a small town, this Mexican author became a nun in 1669, probably because her illegitimate birth removed her from consideration for marriage to someone worthy of her. A misfit in a restrictive colonial society that mistrusted such intense intellectual curiosity in a woman, Asbaje was the finest lyric poet and one of the most interesting dramatists of the Spanish American colonial period. Despite the opposition of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, she carried out scientific experiments and became the confidante of nobility and a correspondent of intellectuals throughout Spanish America. A Woman of Genius (Respuesta a Sor Filotea) is an extraordinary document of the intellectual history of a woman who would not be defeated by her circumstances. Ultimately, she sold her books and devoted herself to caring for the sick and poor; she died of an illness contracted while nursing during an outbreak of the plague.