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Women in Ancient and Medieval Europe Lecture 6 - Osher Lifelong Learning at UNM Continuing Education
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Women in Ancient and Medieval Europe Lecture 6 - Osher Lifelong Learning at UNM Continuing Education

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Traditionally, classes and textbooks on Western history have had little to say about the lives of women in Western civilization. This lack of attention was largely due to the fact that women were …

Traditionally, classes and textbooks on Western history have had little to say about the lives of women in Western civilization. This lack of attention was largely due to the fact that women were officially excluded from politics and the military in such formative civilizations as Classical Greece and Rome, as well as being excluded from official positions within the early Christian Church. In fact, when women did draw the attention of historians in the Classical and Medieval eras, it was usually because these women were transgressing accepted norms in these male-dominated, hierarchical societies. However, as we now know, women contributed to these early societies in very important ways, not just as wives and mothers but, occasionally, as political leaders and even military figures. In this class, we’ll examine the political, social, and cultural forces that shaped women’s lives, and we’ll examine the lives of a few of the remarkable women who challenged these forces, both successfully and unsuccessfully.

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  • 1. “One who speaks too much isn’t thought to be wise”: social and cultural views of women in medieval Europe Maria of Brabant’s marriage to Philip III of France, Chroniques de France ou de St. Denis, c. 1350, British Library. • Marriage • Consent • Christina of Markyate, d. early 12th century • Dowries • Marriage as a religious ceremony • Declared the seventh sacrament by 1208 • Calling of the “banns” • Blessing of the marriage bed • Marriage fees—merchet and amobr • Grounds for annulment • Impotence, adultery, and consanguinity • LouisVII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine, d. 1204 • Owain Gwynedd and Cristina, d. late 12th century • Dower
  • 2. “One who speaks too much isn’t thought to be wise”: social and cultural views of women in medieval Europe Trota/Trotula, from the Miscellanea Medica XVIII, 14th century,Wellcome Library, London. • Childbearing and other health issues • Marriage between 12-15 for noblewomen • Early 20s for commoners • Average lifespan 36 years • 39% lived beyond age of 40 • “Churching” • Orphanages • Contraception • “TheTrotula,” 12th century • Women’s sexuality • Leyrwite and amobr • The Romance of the Rose, 12th century • Concubinage
  • 3. “One who speaks too much isn’t thought to be wise”: social and cultural views of women in medieval Europe • Women as sexual objects • Jean le Meun, The Romance of the Rose • “There is no Lucretia now, nor any Penelope in Greece, nor any worthy lady anywhere on earth if they are properly solicited; the pagans say that no woman ever defended herself against a man who made a serious effort to conquer her, and no one ever found a compromise. Many even give themselves of their own accord when suitors are lacking.”
  • 4. “One who speaks too much isn’t thought to be wise”: social and cultural views of women in medieval Europe Peter Abelard and Heloise, from Le Roman de la Rose, 14th century, British Library. • Educational opportunities • Educational manuals • The Book of the Knight of theTower, c. 1372 • The Householder of Paris, c. 1392 • Dhuoda, d. circa 850 • Liber Manualis • Heloise, d. 1164 • Mistress/wife of Peter Abelard, d. 1142 • Son Astrolabe • Later abbess of Paraclete, 1130-1164 • Christine de Pizan, d. 1430 • The Book of the City of Ladies, 1405
  • 5. “One who speaks too much isn’t thought to be wise”: social and cultural views of women in medieval Europe • The Defense ofWomen • Christine de Pizan, the Book of the City of Ladies: • Christine to Rectitude: “I am therefore troubled and grieved when men argue that many women want to be raped and that it does not bother them at all to be raped by men even when they verbally protest. It would be hard to believe that such great villainy is actually pleasant for them.” Rectitude: “Rest assured, dear friend, chaste ladies who live honestly take absolutely no pleasure in being raped. Indeed, rape is the greatest possible sorrow for them.”
  • 6. “One who speaks too much isn’t thought to be wise”: social and cultural views of women in medieval Europe Veronica Franco, a 16th centuryVenetian courtesan, byTintoretto, 1575,Worcester Art Museum. • Women at work • Peasants • Free versus unfree • Serfs, villeins, fisgilini, dagewardi • Agricultural work • Townswomen • Clothing trade • Weavers, fullers, dyers, embroiderers, etc. • Guilds • Apprentices • Servants, nurses • Food trade • Fishwives, brewsters, bakers, etc. • Moneylenders • Prostitution • Stews, brothels, bawds, and procurers • The Black Death, 1347-1352
  • 7. “One who speaks too much isn’t thought to be wise”: social and cultural views of women in medieval Europe Woman milking a cow, Historylearningsite.co.uk. • Women and the law • Merchet • Leyrwite • Chevage –fine for leaving the lord’s property • Relief and heriot—inheritance fees • Magna Carta, 1215 • Fee tail or entailment, c. 1285 • Wardship • Coverture • Shrews and scolds • Sumptuary laws
  • 8. “One who speaks too much isn’t thought to be wise”: social and cultural views of women in medieval Europe • Domestic violence • Paterfamilias • English gaol delivery rolls, 1300-1348 • Out of 22,417 felony indictments, 92% of DV cases were homicides; this was 2% of total homicides reported and only 0.7% of total cases were DV • 29% of men accused were indicted for wife killing; 29% of women accused for killing their husbands were convicted and burned • 75% of cases of spousal violence from 1215-1515 were homicides • English Statute ofTreason, 1352 • Paris church courts • 10% of 600 petitions c. 1384-7 were for separation on grounds of cruelty • Separation a mense et thoro versus a mense • Welsh and Irish “Fairy Bride” stories • Raising “the hue and cry”
  • 9. “One who speaks too much isn’t thought to be wise”: social and cultural views of women in medieval Europe • English law regarding rape • Glanvill, 12th century • Bracton, 13th century • “if he is convicted of this crime [this] punishment follows: the loss of members, that there be member for member, for when a virgin is defiled she loses her member and therefore let her defiler be punished in the parts in which he offended. Let him thus lose his eyes which gave him sight of the maiden’s beauty for which he coveted her. And let him lose as well the testicles which excited his hot lust.” • Statute ofWestminster I, 1275 • Statute ofWestminster II, 1285 • French law prosecuted rape as a capital crime until c. 1385
  • 10. “One who speaks too much isn’t thought to be wise”: social and cultural views of women in medieval Europe • Pursuing a rape case in court • Glanville, 12th century • “A woman who suffers in this way must go, soon after the deed is done, to the nearest vill and there show to trustworthy men the injury done to her, and any effusion of blood there may be and any tearing of her clothes. She should then do the same to the reeve of the hundred. Afterwards she should proclaim it publicly in the next county court.”
  • 11. “One who speaks too much isn’t thought to be wise”: social and cultural views of women in medieval Europe • Conception from rape • Galen, fl. 200 AD • Joan versus one E., Eyre of Kent 1313-4 • Justice: “You shall answer to the King for that you have ravished the maid Joan, who is thirty years of age and carries a child in her arms.” The woman was asked who was the father of the child, and she answered that E. was. It was said that this was a wonderful thing, for that a child could not be engendered without the consent of both parties; and so it was said that E. was guilty of naught.”
  • 12. Female judicial combat— the Solothurner Fechtbuch, 1423
  • 13. Talhoffer Fechtbuch, 1459
  • 14. Talhoffer Fechtbuch, 1467

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