This article historicizes the study of initiated female Buddhist devotees (thilashin) in Myanmar through analysis of the 1982 biography of Daw Medhawati (1862–1932), founder of a Buddhist nunnery (khyaung) at the turn of the twentieth century. Attending to rhetorical models of practice that reveal the stakes of the historically specific and local social worlds in which thilashin have sought to establish and maintain institutional footholds, I reconsider the assumed predominance of tropes of renunciatory asceticism in the self-presentation of thilashin and propose a more closely calibrated understanding of thilashin as non-ordained but initiated women unevenly empowered by relationships and practices that enable their advancement on a Buddhist path to liberation. In particular, I focus on two models of practice that demonstrate how Medhawati occupies and navigates the gendered subjectivities ofsisterandpatron.” I argue that the biography's emplacement of its subject within a family system and within a patronage network indicates the meaningful persistence of highly intimate and localized networks of belonging and affiliation amidst the state-driven reorganization of Myanmar Buddhist institutions of the 1980s. Read intertextually with other contemporary, vernacular Burmese literature written by or about thilashin and their male monastic peers, Medhawati's life narrative and other thilashin biographies put forward new ways of thinking about the shifting subjectivities and forms of social relatedness that produce and authorize Buddhist institutions in and beyond contemporary Myanmar.