Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 3471
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): McNamara , Jo Ann.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Women and Power through the Family Revisited
  • Source: Gendering the Master Narrative: Women and Power in the Middle Ages.  Edited by Mary C. Erler and Maryanne Kowaleski.  Cornell University Press, 2003.  Pages 17 - 30.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Essay
  • Subject (See Also): Family Gender Noble Women Periodization Power Queens Virile Women
  • Geographic Area: France;Germany
  • Century: 8- 9- 10- 11
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  • Abstract: An earlier article by Suzanne Wemple and me, reprinted in Erler and Kowaleski's first "Woman and Power" anthology, argued that family connections endowed some early medieval women with wealth and power. The changes in family structure and general institutionalization severely reduced these advantages in the high middle ages. This proposition proved compatible to the main trend of scholarship in intervening decades and still generally prevails in the midst of recent controversies. Reviewing our arguments, I now believe that women's familial power was strongest as a wife and widow and owed little to connections with the natal family. The single-gender theories of antiquity favored their exercise of masculine roles to supplement or even replace their husband's power. This was not a result of unsettled conditions accompanying the "fall" of the Roman Empire but inherent in the establishment of the empire itself. A gendered master narrative therefore requires a reconfiguration of European chronology. The "middle ages" and the more recent "late antiquity" should be abandoned in favor of a division into first millennium history, when European society was dominated by class, and second millennium history, when women were relegated to a separate gender and the separation of male and female spheres became the foundation of a new social organization. [Abstract submitted to Feminae by the author.]
  • Author's Affiliation: Hunter Collage and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York [Emerita]
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2003.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 0801441129
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