Catholics in post-Reformation England faced new challenges in their resolution to remain faithful to Rome following the passage of anti-Catholic laws in the 1580s. These legislative attempts to root out Catholicism resulted in the creation of a clandestine community where private households became essential sites for the survival of Catholic worship. This article extends prior studies of the role of women in the English Catholic community by considering how marital status affected an individual’s ability to protect the ‘old faith’. By merging the study of widowhood with spatial analyses of Catholic households, I argue that early modern patriarchal structures provided specific opportunities inherent in widowhood that were unavailable to other men and women, whether married or single. While widowhood, in history and historiography, is frequently considered a weak, liminal, or potentially threatening status for women, in the harsh realities of a clandestine religious minority community, these weaknesses became catalysts for successful subversion of Protestant authority. Assisted by their legal autonomy, economic independence, and the manipulation of gendered cultural stereotypes, many Catholic widows used their households to harbour priests and outmanoeuvre searchers. This argument maintains that a broader interpretation of the role of women and marital status is essential to understanding the gendered nature of post-Reformation England.