Medieval period roughly late 400s into 1300s;

kingdom of Franks - 714-814,

Charles the Great (Charlemagne) 768-814.


"Age of Faith"

Early medieval period gives women some access to church participation and learning; (cite Paul, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.")

double monasteries -- woman Abbess with some power;


Tertullian: "it is not permitted for a woman to speak in the church, nor teach, nor to claim for herself a share in any masculine function." 

Tertullian: women as "devil's gateway," temptations to men.

"Do you know that each of you women is an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age; the guilt must necessarily live too. You are the gate of hell, you are the temptress of the forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law."


New church limits on women's religious & intellectual life -- separate religious communities.

Cardinal Peter Damian, Concerning the Celibacy of the Clergy: calling women "Satan's bait, poison for men's souls."

Abbot: "recognizing that the wickedness of women is greater than all the other wickedness of the word, that the poison of asps and dragons is more curable & less dangerous to men than familiarity of women, we have unanimously decreed for the safety of our souls, no less than for that of our bodies, that we will on no account receive any more sisters but will avoid them like poisonous animals." 

Charlemagne:  "weakness of her sex & instability of her mind forbid that woman should hold the leadership over men in teaching & preaching".


Hildegard von Bingen:

Causea et Curae: health in terms of humours, also brought in astrology & folk medicine;

Liber Simplicis Medicinae: herbal medicine;


Eve/Virgin Mary.

childbirth pain;

English queen Mary de Bohun, wife of King Henry IV, married at 12, died ten years later giving birth to sixth child.  French queen Blanche of Castile also married at 12; by age 38 birth to 12 children, but only five survived.

Pope Innocent II year 1200 - women's suffering in childbirth reminder of Eve's sin.

"God's punishment hangs still over all your sex,"

menstruation -- superstitions;


Aristotle's ideas carried over:

Ricardi Anglici (1180-1225), "The purpose of the male sperm is to give form, the purpose of the female sperm is to receive that likeness.  From the male sperm, therefore, come spirit and creative power and form; from the female sperm come material."


Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) - woman more emotional; "naturally of less strength & dignity than men";

Summa Theologica: "Woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from defect in the active force or from some material indisposition."

"Good order would have been wanting in the human family if some were not governed by others wiser than themselves.  So by such a subjection woman is naturally subject to man, because naturally in man the discretion of reason predominates."


Alchemy -- transformation;

search for perfection,


all material made up of two principles, male and female - male stronger, female imperfect.

Paracelsus (1493-1541) - "Hence man is a little world, because he is an extract from all the stars, planets, earth & elements." "The cosmos is the greatest world, the world of man the next greatest, and that of woman the smallest & least."

male seed "contained the nature, quality, character & essence of beings, & may be looked upon as an invisible or hidden man." "Woman, being nearer to Nature [seen as lower quality] furnishes the soil in which the seed of man finds the conditions required for its development.  Man, although born of woman, is never derived from woman, but always from man."

recipe "If the sperm, enclosed in a hermetically sealed glass, is buried in manure for 40 days & properly "magnetized", it may begin to live & move.  If artificially fed with the "arcanus sanguinis hominis"  [secret human blood-principle] & allowed to remain in the manure in a continually equal temperature, it will grow into a human child, such as born by a woman."


establishment of universities - 1179 "every cathedral church shall maintain a master"

professors forbidden from marrying,  "The lawful mate of the philosopher is the leading lady of all delights in this life, Philosophy herself.  The true wife of each philosopher is his philosophy from which he begets books and his disciples are his sons."

Fellows of Oxford and Cambridge not allowed to marry until 1882.  University as monastic culture. 

Archdeacon of Oxford Walter Map 1100s: "Women journey by widely different ways, but by whatever windings they may wander, there is only one outlet - wickedness."


Salerno, earliest Western center for medical education,

women associated there, receiving medical degrees, passing exams & receiving licenses;

hostility to women practicing medicine -- Italy relatively open, Trotula -- name linked to famous treatise on gynecology.


Paris late 1200s several women had small businesses as barbers; late 1300s, barbers guild laws to prevent women from practicing & by 1400s, very rare to find female barber in Paris.


Women's healing work - convent.

ordinary women in charge of family health care - able to consult practical books called herbals;

women set up herb shops or apothecaries,

midwives.  Germany independent group of midwives since 1298 - 1492 German formal midwife oath.

1560, formal midwifery program in Paris,

caesarean operatons

woman healer in Paris, Jacoba Felicie, prosecuted.



Malleus Maleficarum  ("the Witches' Hammer") Dominican monks 1484 - women's inferior minds made them "more credulous, and since the chief aim of the devil is to corrupt faith, therefore he attacks them.  Women are naturally more impressionable, and more ready to receive the influence of a disembodied spirit."