Medieval Women

I’m convinced that few European historical periods are as intriguing as the Middle Ages. Or as misunderstood. Take the very name–Middle, Medieval, the latter bearing many negative connotations in modern English. The Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century, spanning the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and foreshadowing the Renaissance. Much of how we think about medieval times is influenced by Renaissance perceptions, at times just, at times unjustifiably arrogant.

medieval women1

Especially circumspect are the opinions that women played no role in medieval societies and were treated no better than chattel. In reality, women’s status during the Middle Ages was more advanced than could be said of the Renaissance, and the reason many medieval women disappear from the accounts has much to do with the later periods and their rigid conceptions of gender roles.

A recently published book corrects the unfair characterizations of medieval women and gives them their well-deserved place in history. Lavishly illustrated with images from the British Library’s medieval manuscript collection, Medieval Women by Deirdre Jackson is a fascinating read. It’s a glimpse into a turbulent society, but one that produced highly educated and influential individuals. Some, like English queen Eleanor of Castile, had their own workshops and commissioned early historical treatises on subjects as eclectic as healthcare and military art.

Others like Hildegard of Bingen were composers, philosophers, and writers. Hildegard was all of the above, in addition to being a Christian mystic and Benedictine abbess. Many women made careers as artists, librarians, scribes and illuminators. They were also perfumers, midwives, and pharmacists. The 14th century precursor to cologne, The Queen of Hungary Water, was commissioned by Elizabeth of Hungary, and this blend of rosemary, thyme, orange blossom, mint and lavender held sway until Eau de Cologne appeared four centuries later. In the later periods, as the church solidified its patriarchal position, a woman recedes into the background, her main choice being marriage or a convent (servitude or prostitution, if she’s unfortunate to be born poor).

What makes Jackson’s book especially compelling is her focus not only on women’s achievements and how they were viewed in society, but also on the way individuals perceived themselves. This gives complexity and depth to the characters Jackson presents, and the temporal boundary between us and them wears thinner. One may not be a polymath like the Italian French author Christine de Pizan, but it’s easy enough to understand that much of her impetus to write came from the need to support herself and her three children.

Christine_de_Pisan

As De Pizan argues in The Book of the City of Ladies, stereotypes of women will endure only if women are prevented from entering into the conversation, and I’m sure she would have been delighted with Jackson’s work. It gives voice to women who have done much to advance culture. The glorious accomplishments of the Renaissance and beyond wouldn’t be possible without them.

First image: book cover. Second image: Christine de Pizan lecturing men. British Library . Harley 4431, f.259v.

176 pages | 120 color plates | 8 1/2 x 9 1/2 | © 2015$30.00
ISBN: 9780712358651

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86 Comments

  • The Scented Salon: Reminds me of how Muslim women are perceived today only that we can test firsthand our hypothesis that they are marginalized and uneducated while it is harder to know more about Medieval women. This book will certainly help in that respect. I have ordered a copy. June 3, 2015 at 9:27am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: Marginalized, unedicated…that’s something you could say of Greek women in Antiquity. Nevertheless, also this has more nuances than you may think. If you are interested in the position of women:
      Nicole Loraux: Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman
      —————–: The Experiences of Tiresias

      Sarah Pomeroy: Godesses, Whores, Wives
      ——————-: Spartan Women
      And there is also a book about women in Prehistory: J.M. Adovasio: The Invisible Sex.

      To be honest, I read none of these books, it is not my favourite subject. Maybe you know them already? June 3, 2015 at 10:12am Reply

      • The Scented Salon: No I don’t as I am also not a fan of this subject. But they sound really interesting. I am more of a lover of coffee table books with beautiful images of women from ancient times, hence my purchase of this new book. I have a beautiful book called Ottoman Women. That is about the extent of it. June 3, 2015 at 10:57am Reply

        • Victoria: British Library often published well-illustrated volumes, so it’s a good idea to check its website time to time. Of course, their collection is unparalleled. June 3, 2015 at 11:23am Reply

      • Victoria: I might actually have Pomeroy’s first book, but I haven’t read it. I do find the topic enormously fascinating. I will have to read more about it. Thank you for the suggestions. June 3, 2015 at 11:10am Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: Nicole Loraux: it’s better to read the original French.
          You may also be interested in the role of women in Greek ritual: ”Portrait of a Priestess” by Joan Breton Connelly. On my list ”to read” because I enjoyed very much her beautifully written ”The Parthenon Enigma”. June 3, 2015 at 11:27am Reply

          • Victoria: Thank you again! I just skimmed a sample of The Parthenon Enigma via my Kindle, and I liked the writing style and the subject matter. Portrait of a Priestess is not on Kindle, unfortunately, or I would have gotten it right away. But maybe, it is better to get it in print, since it promises many illustrations in addition to interesting research. June 3, 2015 at 11:36am Reply

            • Victoria: P.S. Will read Loraux too. Meanwhile, I found this interesting article on her book in The New York Review of Books:
              http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1988/apr/28/attic-exits/ June 3, 2015 at 11:36am Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: Thank you very much for the link! I read as far as I could without paying; far enough to be tempted to read the book! Bernard Knox, the eminent classicist, can say it so well.. June 3, 2015 at 12:29pm Reply

                • Victoria: I realized after I posted that the old NYRB need an account, but even so, the start had me hooked. June 3, 2015 at 2:19pm Reply

          • Ann: Oh, your comment just reminded me of another excellent read–Margalit Fox’s, “The Riddle of the Labyrinth,” which is actually about Alice Kober’s decryption of Linear B–the earliest written language found on Crete…. but the book is a terrific narrative of Kober’s nearly monastic study of an historical mystery. June 3, 2015 at 12:19pm Reply

            • Cornelia Blimber: Yes, Alice Kober was a classicist of genius. Another one was Jane Harrison. Her books were revolutionary in the field of Greek mythology, although they are dated now, they are still worth reading. So many excellent books are labelled outdated… Rhys Carpenter, F.M. Corngold, Gilbert Murray, recently outdated Burkert…all still worth reading.
              Mary Beard wrote a biography of Jane Harrision:”The Invention of Jane Harrison”. June 3, 2015 at 1:32pm Reply

              • Theresa: Thank you for the shout-out about Rhys Carpenter! His book about Greek Sculpture really made me look at sculpture in a new way. I was fortunate to be taught by his student, Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway, a formidable scholar herself! June 3, 2015 at 4:41pm Reply

            • Sylvie: I second this suggestion, enjoyed it very much. June 7, 2015 at 7:26am Reply

              • Sylvie: Sorry, this was meant as a reply to Ann about The Riddle of the Labyrinth. June 7, 2015 at 7:27am Reply

      • Ann: I read Pomeroy’s book in college! In er, well, not to put too fine a point on it… in the mid 1980s!
        Even then it was a little dated, but well written. There are hundreds of wonderful books out now retelling history with women’s influence thoughtfully underscored. My absolute favorite is fairly contemporary–Katherine Graham’s “Personal History.” June 3, 2015 at 12:07pm Reply

        • Victoria: I read a fascinating book by a Ukrainian novelist and philosopher Oksana Zabuzhko called Notre Dame d’Ukraine. It’s about Lesya Ukrainka, one of Ukraine’s most prominent writers and poets, but she also has a long chapter on Ukrainka’s fascinating with the ancient Rome and the role of women. So, I read on the subject a little myself and then ended up looking at the books on other periods. That’s how a friend recommended Pomeroy, but I admit that I didn’t read it beyond the intro. June 3, 2015 at 12:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: But it depends on the country, doesn’t it? Iranian women, for instance, enjoy good access to education and not only universal literacy rates but also high levels of university education (comparable to that of men). So are the women in the Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

      The book is beautifully illustrated as well! June 3, 2015 at 11:02am Reply

      • The Scented Salon: It depends on the individual. Sure, there are country statistics, but even if we just look at Muslim women in the U.S., so many are well educated and contribute to the society in work as well as caring for family that it is simply laughable when people paint all Muslim women with the paintbrush of the victim (that is not the correct expression but I am going to go ahead and use it). June 3, 2015 at 12:51pm Reply

        • Victoria: True. After all, Pakistan had a female president, while the same can’t be said of the US and many European countries. June 3, 2015 at 2:56pm Reply

          • JulienFromDijon: An interesting point of view is :
            Nowadays, the unemployment rate is so high it makes you more dependent from your family and society.
            If your family has oppressive values, is abusive, or downward violent, you’re helpless for the most part. Even more if above your family, the society you belong to is even more oppressive.

            And it’s not like our western vision of adulthood with separate habitation, the “all generation under the same roof” remain the representation of a successful life and the secret picture they aim at, even if we see it as an obstacle for emancipation.

            Remember the gay interpretation of the movie “wizzard of oz” : Dorothy’s dream is to live back again with her relatives. It’s arguable. Because it means living back in the closet with no glitters. But somehow being rejected by the people you love the most is the biggest fear of all. And most people are not aiming higher than to keep living with their relative, even when they’re so wrong.

            You depend highly on your family to become graduated.
            Then, they’re no guarantee of a job, and you’re not automatically wish to take distance with your overbearing own family.
            And if you don’t resist wedding proposal, the odds are rare you’ll enjoy this “standalone” position where you’re not under your father and family control, then your husband’s, then your son’s. June 4, 2015 at 4:24am Reply

            • Victoria: I also never understand why she wanted to leave the magic kingdom. 🙂 June 4, 2015 at 4:29pm Reply

  • ChrisF: I have always been fascinated with medieval times and as a kid read as many books as I could get my hands on (most were fiction: e.g., Eleanor the Queen, Journey for a Princess which actually showed the strength of women) and I can’t wait to read the book you recommended.

    Thanks for this post; it’s great finding out about women’s accomplishments and need to support the great work women are still rolling out. June 3, 2015 at 10:01am Reply

    • Victoria: I always had a feeling that much of what we know about medieval times is still heavily influenced by the Renaissance prejudices. Of course, the period was volatile and there was much upheaval, but at the same time, there were incredible achievements, by men and women alike. June 3, 2015 at 11:07am Reply

      • Hamamelis: It so interesting (and alarming?) how history is written by the victors. Recently a documentary on Dutch television argued that Protestants favour the Renaissance as the most important part of Dutch history, and the Catholics favour the Medieval Times, for obvious reasons. It made me realise how I am influenced by a story, not necessarily a fact.

        Eleanor of Castile’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine is another example of a formidable Medieval woman.
        Hildegard is exceptional as well.

        Thank you for this post. June 3, 2015 at 11:33am Reply

        • Victoria: Agree. The business of making up history and twisting facts to suit whatever the current political project is as old as, well, history. 🙂 Since I kind of feel like we live in the volatile period of transition, there is much to relate to in the medieval history.

          Oh, yes, Eleanor of Aquitaine was such a character. Her first husband, Louis VII of France, gets lost in her shadow. June 3, 2015 at 11:45am Reply

  • Ann: Your essay is highlighting how very un-nutritious is my current addiction to mysteries. I have been on a 2 month role of gorging on mysteries… I just pre-ordered Medieval Women on Amazon. The release date is later this month in the US. It sounds really engaging. Hopefully I can tear myself away from the latest foibles of William Monk and Ian Rutledge! June 3, 2015 at 12:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Hey, I go through my “mysteries and nothing but mysteries” phases too. It’s one of my favorite genres. A great mystery is totally captivating. June 3, 2015 at 2:18pm Reply

  • Austenfan: A propos of nothing; I love those illustrations. I love illuminations anyway and these are very pretty. My dream is to one day be able to look at the original of the Tres Riches Heures de Jean Duc de Berry in Chantilly. It won’t happen as the book will never be on general display, but a girl can dream 😉 June 3, 2015 at 12:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: I was inspired to read about it, and yes, now that’s my dream too. 🙂

      I’d love to visit Chantilly just for the name. June 3, 2015 at 2:54pm Reply

      • Austenfan: I did see some pages of Les Belles Heures in a beautiful exhibit on the Limbourg brothers ( the painters) in the Netherlands years ago. Those tiny little paintings transport you to another time. June 3, 2015 at 4:20pm Reply

        • Hamamelis: They are breathtaking. Didn’t they live in Nijmegen? June 3, 2015 at 4:25pm Reply

          • Austenfan: Yes they did. Which is why the exhibit was done there. It’s one of the best I have ever visited, but then I’m nuts about illuminations. June 3, 2015 at 4:40pm Reply

        • Victoria: The Met has 176 pages online:
          http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/470306

          What strikes me is how international these projects used to be–French, Dutch, with a mix of Italian influences. June 3, 2015 at 4:37pm Reply

          • Austenfan: I suppose the Duchy of Burgundy was quite an important power and had plenty of money to get artists from all over Europe. It’s a fascinating time in our history and I love getting glimpses of it through art. June 3, 2015 at 4:43pm Reply

            • Victoria: The Lady and the Unicorn tapestry were also commissioned in Flanders (and they were done from the drawings completed in Paris). Now, that’s another marvel from medieval times. June 3, 2015 at 5:38pm Reply

              • Austenfan: Yes, Flanders and it’s tapestries.

                I visited an exhibit on illuminations in Brussels a couple of years ago. It was done in the national library and was huge. I remember seeing all these old copies of texts that I had been taught at school. I remember feeling like I had just stepped back in time. June 4, 2015 at 5:22am Reply

                • Victoria: I can only imagine!
                  It reminds me of a visit to a mosque in Aurangabad and being shown a Koran decorated with gold. I leafed through it and then asked how old it was. “Oh, it was written and decorated by Emperor Aurangzeb.” In other words, a historical artifact from 1600s. I later googled the place and saw comments from historians who confirmed that this Koran was authentic. June 4, 2015 at 4:40pm Reply

                  • Austenfan: I can only imagine how privileged you must have felt. In one of my books on illuminations a section is devoted to illuminations from other areas than the Western world. It’s a great world to discover. June 4, 2015 at 5:42pm Reply

                • Austenfan: I utterly swooned at the work of Simon Bening. Of you google the name you can see some of his work. June 4, 2015 at 5:40pm Reply

      • ChrisF: At this time last year I went to Chantilly — it’s a short train ride from Paris and well worth visiting — both the chateau and town. And you can have Chantilly cream! June 3, 2015 at 8:10pm Reply

        • Austenfan: The Château is supposed to be really beautiful isn’t it, even when one cannot see the famous Heures. It’s been on my list for a while.
          I love the word Crème Chantilly. It makes it taste even better than it already does normally. June 4, 2015 at 5:24am Reply

        • Victoria: I definitely will have to visit. The beauty of many of these French sites is that they are impeccably maintained and the towns around them are lovely. June 4, 2015 at 4:24pm Reply

      • JulienFromDijon: In French, by frequency, chantilly means whipped cream (then a castle and a noble lineage). I’m drooling. June 4, 2015 at 4:29am Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, that’s my order of associations too. 🙂 June 4, 2015 at 4:31am Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: I suppose the Chantilly perfume by Houbigant is creamy…must find it out, if it is still there! June 4, 2015 at 4:59am Reply

            • Victoria: It should be around. Houbigant was rebought not long ago. June 4, 2015 at 4:30pm Reply

  • Alicia: Medieval and Renaissance are my fields of study. The are no clear limits between one and the other, and conditions varied according to different regions and social classes. A most remarkable woman was the Great Contessa Matilda of Toscana, also called Matilda of Canossa, a powerful feudal lady who governed the Italian Northern lands, and one of the few distinguished by her military accomplishments (XI cetury-start of the XII).
    The beloved of the great philosopher Abelard, the celebrated Heloise, was a young girl of exceptional erudition, and eventually a most accomplished Abadesa. Queen Isabel of Portugal (a Spaniard) an outstanding peacemaker, and of course, at the very end of the Middle Ages Queen Isabel de Castilla, practically the maker of the first modern unified European nation was a model sovereign of her realm, a warrior queen, who educated her daughters according to the humanist curriculum. One of their tutors was a woman who taught Latin at the University. Her daughter Queen Catalina of Aragon, the unfortunate first wife of Henry VIII of England, mastered several languages, and was a better warrior than her husband.. In Souther Italy another woman taught medicine at the first famous medical school, that of Salerno. In Spain there are still old ballads singing the military heroism of young women, and who has ever forgotten Joan of Arc? Two more books for your list: Ferrante, Joan M. (1997). To the Glory of Her Sex: Women’s Roles in the Composition of Medieval Texts. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253211085.
    Hay, David (2008). The military leadership of Matilda of Canossa, 1046-1115. Manchester University Press. pp. 35, 43–44, 65–67. June 3, 2015 at 12:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: Just incredible! Not that there was such women, but how little our history curriculum in school covers them. All of these discoveries–and through your comment alone I learned a lot–make me want to read up more and more on the subject. June 3, 2015 at 2:58pm Reply

  • Aurora: This sounds so interesting, and I simply love these illustrations, as I do the music of Hildegard von Bingen, I would be fascinated to know more about her life.

    French historians of the group of the Annales focused a lot on ‘forgotten’ periods too, their books are very scholarly of course, but I tell myself I will read them some day. Thank you so much for this post, I will track Medieval Women and the comments are full of ideas for my reading list as well. June 3, 2015 at 1:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: French have written quite a bit on this subject, from what I understand, including on the important role of women in early Christianity (and their subsequent banishment from playing an active part in the church). June 3, 2015 at 2:59pm Reply

      • Hamamelis: There is also a good book about Mary Magdalen (not the Da Vinci code kind), and how her history has been rewritten: Mary Magdalen, myth and metaphor, by Susan Haskins. I read it many years ago, and have never forgotten it. June 3, 2015 at 3:55pm Reply

        • Victoria: Zabuzhko’s book I mentioned earlier in another comment quoted it, so I jotted down the title and then forgot about it. Your comment reminded me about the book, and now I have a secondhand copy (3 euros!) on the way. June 3, 2015 at 4:19pm Reply

        • Anne: There is a better, newer one by Katherine Jansen that looks at the Magadlene as social history. 🙂 June 3, 2015 at 7:42pm Reply

          • Victoria: Is it “The Making of the Magdalen: Preaching and Popular Devotion in the Later Middle Ages”? June 4, 2015 at 4:22pm Reply

            • Anne: Yes, that is the one. It covers a less literary viewpoint. June 5, 2015 at 8:58am Reply

              • Victoria: I read a couple of reviews, and it seems very interesting. June 5, 2015 at 12:15pm Reply

  • orsetta: oh what a coincidence! – i’ve just finished reading Fiona Maddocks’ biography ‘Hildegard of Bingen. The Woman of her Age’.

    Maddocks is a classical music critic so a significant part of the book was of course devoted to Hildegard’s musical legacy but it was a great read overall – Hildegard was a true polymath and a strong personality.

    it was also interesting to think that her achievements were in large part possible thanks to the fact that science was rooted in monasteries, where the participation of women was still accepted but actually the big development of universities soon after Hildegard’s death, and where women were banned, resulted in an exclusion of women from scientific discourse… June 3, 2015 at 1:47pm Reply

    • Hamamelis: Very interesting to read, the moving away of science from religion at the cost of the participation of women. June 3, 2015 at 2:47pm Reply

      • orsetta: yes, paradoxical, isn’t it? science progressed but women’s opportunities diminished… June 3, 2015 at 2:52pm Reply

        • Hamamelis: Very paradoxical, especially because we are led to believe otherwise! June 3, 2015 at 3:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: I was mentioning this in another comment, but until I started reading more about early Christianity, I didn’t realize how active women were in the church affairs. And how unfairly they got sidelined.

      One more book to add to my list! Thank you, Orsetta. 🙂 June 3, 2015 at 3:01pm Reply

    • Anne: Hildegard was very much the exception to al rules. I think the univerisities at that point are not about science, but the pursuit of the dialectic, which is a very gender exclusionary form of theology. Women could continue being visionaries and aints, just they had to do it outside the university and under the guidance of men. Not that this stopped them from theological innovation (Marguerete Porete, Hadewych of Antwerp, Mari d’Oignies).

      (I study the transition to the early universities) June 3, 2015 at 7:47pm Reply

  • Ariadne: Hey, I would just love to wear a wimple for a day! Actually I think I would prefer women’s Medieval clothing fashions over Renaissance. They seem more flattering and complementary to the female physique. June 3, 2015 at 2:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: All of those dresses accentuating the neck and narrow waist in jewel tones! June 3, 2015 at 3:15pm Reply

  • Danaki: Another book on the ‘to buy’ and ‘to read’ list 🙂 June 3, 2015 at 4:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a wonderful volume. British Library usually does great books. Well, as one would expect. 🙂 June 3, 2015 at 4:51pm Reply

  • Portia: Hey Victoria,
    Have you read The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen by Barb Stegemann? The woman who went to Afghanistan to get the women involved in Orange Blossom farming instead of Poppies? Who now works around the world changing communities through economically supporting the women and buying her essential oils from them to go into the 7 Virtues fragrances?
    Well worth a read.
    Portia xx June 3, 2015 at 5:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much. I heard of the line, but I didn’t know too many details about her story. June 4, 2015 at 4:18pm Reply

  • Ariadne: For another very interesting read about women flourishing political and social power despite enduring oppressive circumstances check out Alev Lytle Croutier’s book Harem, The World Behind The Veil, a deep scholarly tome jam packed with beautiful art and photos. This book was truly an eye opener for me. June 3, 2015 at 7:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much. Just sent myself a Kindle sample. June 4, 2015 at 4:20pm Reply

  • Anne: Medieval history is also my area of research – I just spent a semesrer putting women back into the crusades for my students. I somewhat disappointed to see the same women popping up again as representative of all women across multiple regions and times, but I suppose it is much harder to make a book that represents more than late medieval and exceptional women. Certainly harder to find the pictures. At least there seems to be some effort to undo Victorian medievalisms (more the culprit than the Renaissance). June 3, 2015 at 7:40pm Reply

    • Anne: I am trying to find some references for the field of medievalism (the study of how the medieval has been used in both culture, politics and society as a tool to teach modern ideas) so you can have a look at the way certain parts of medieval history are caricatured or used as ‘big bad backwards’ other. It is not just the Renaissance, but everyone. I need to get off my phone to do this though.

      For other women, there is a lot of work on women and troubadour literature, both as patrons and authors (and is where we run into the issue of anonymous being presumed male), a lot done on femlae mystics, marriage, childbirth, government (that rewrites how we understand medieval structures of power, which also suffers from terrible medivalism. Delete the word feudal!), letter writing … etc. Gender is complex when the church is added in and, well, there is also the non European Middle Ages to consider. June 3, 2015 at 7:59pm Reply

      • Hannah: Unfortunately, women have to be put back into history when it comes to most areas.

        I think your comment on undoing “Victorian medievalisms” is interesting. I often hear this from people who studied history–how people imagine historical periods or certain parts of history actually come from the Victorian era. June 3, 2015 at 8:27pm Reply

        • Anne: Yes, but I think that at some point history also needs to start doingmore than filling, but using the new information to change the standard narratives for everyone.

          The Victorians pioneered the field of history as something that was more than just a rhetorical or political reflection, something to be studid for its own benefit. Execept they were also using it to justify imperialism and their own existence. So most histories have to fight the battle of sorting out that mess and learning to question some of the eary pioneers. The medieval (period) though played a sort of pastoralist/romantic anti industrial dream that provided an other just as much as the Orient. Anti reason, feudal dream. So… yes. Most of how we view the past is Victorian. 🙂 June 5, 2015 at 9:11am Reply

      • Victoria: Whenever you have time, Anne. I would love to read some more on this. Thank you very much. June 4, 2015 at 4:23pm Reply

        • Anne: I need to finish teaching (this week) and then I will pull some of the medievalism reading list, plus a few blogs that are run by historians trying to deconstruct it online. As a medievalist you always end up unpicking it, but is fascinating in its own right. June 5, 2015 at 9:02am Reply

          • Victoria: Thank you very much, Anne! Since many people expressed an interest, I might actually make a separate post with the reading suggestions already made and your list. I, for one, am very excited. This is a historical period that fascinates me the most, in Europe and especially beyond. June 5, 2015 at 12:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Anne. Your comments are fascinating and give even more food for thought. The volume does include many other women, but it did leave me wanting to read more. Of course, that’s what a good book always does. June 4, 2015 at 4:21pm Reply

      • Anne: I had a look at the book yesterday and, well, I still wih it had more variety of women. I suspect that has more to do with me wishing there was one simple text that covered the bits of medieval women that I know through experience. Alas, it is not the way. June 5, 2015 at 9:13am Reply

        • Victoria: Perhaps, we will still see something like this. June 5, 2015 at 12:18pm Reply

  • ariane: Thank you so much for this article,I have learnt so much and have an enormous reading list now!I am a singer,and although classically trained,have a special love for medieval music,Hildegard and the Troubadour songs-(the only female troubadour song where text and melody survived is ‘A Chantar” by Beatriz de Dia,a wonderful song!!),it was also a time where music was more about sharing,not like in the Renaissance,and even more so in the Baroque period,where it became more and more about virtuosos,a singer was to be admired for his bravura.
    Thank you for this. June 4, 2015 at 2:42am Reply

    • Anka: Hi Ariane,
      One of my favorite female authors, Irmtraud Morgner, has written a wonderful novel on the troubadour theme and connected it with life and gender themes in East Germany. It’s a novel from the 70s and was was translated into English in 2000. „The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice as Chronicled by Her Minstrel Laura“ („Leben und Abenteuer der Trobadora Beatriz de Dia nach Zeugnissen ihrer Spielfrau Laura“). I can highly recommend it! June 4, 2015 at 3:28am Reply

      • Ariane: Hi Anka,thank you so much for this,I will seek this out,hunt it down if necessary,it sounds amazing!The readers of this site are so interesting,I am always amazed!
        Victoria,we need a follow-up to this article,when people have read all the books recommended here!! June 4, 2015 at 8:41am Reply

        • Victoria: We really need to do that! 🙂 June 4, 2015 at 4:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: Me too! I have a huge reading list, and I’ve started working through it already.

      I’ve never heard of Beatriz de Dia, so it was another discovery. I found this version of her song online, and it’s eerily beautiful:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Zah4VWPiNE June 4, 2015 at 4:28pm Reply

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