Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


Previous Articles of the Month

April 2022


Agnes van den Bossche, Flag of the city of Ghent, painted linen textile, 1481-82, Belgian, Ghent, Stadsmuseum Gent, 00787 (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain). Feminae description

Demets, Lisa. "Spies, Instigators, and Troublemakers: Gendered Perceptions of Rebellious Women in Late Medieval Flemish Chronicles." Journal of Women's History 33, 2 (2021): 12-34.

Abstract: "Women's participation in medieval revolts has puzzled many scholars. Recent consensus is that women in the Low Countries were involved in a variety of insurgent activities, apart from violent actions. In this article, I will turn to a lesser-used source to investigate the different and often violent roles women played in various forms of sedition, factional wars, and uprisings in the late medieval County of Flanders. Chronicles have often been dismissed as unreliable. However, they offer an indirect insight into the stereotyped aspects of female and male roles in revolts. Various Flemish chroniclers point to the danger of female spies and secret messengers, particularly to the influence of the wives of aldermen on urban politics. These women were not described as anomalies. On the contrary, their capacity to disturb political order is a recurrent theme in narrative sources." - [Reproduced from the journal page on the Project Muse website.]

March 2022

An image of an elderly woman on wooden crutches from a medieval manuscript
Detail of a miniature of an allegorical figure on crutches embodying Vieillesse (Old Age), Roman de la Rose, 1490-1500, Netherlands, British Library, MS Harley 4425, fol. 10v (Source: British Library, Public domain).

Bailey, Anne E. " The Female Condition: Gender and Deformity in High-Medieval Miracle Narratives." Gender & History 33, 2 (2021): 427-447

Abstract: "This article explores the intersection of medicine, religion and gender within the context of miracle narratives compiled in England and France in the High Middle Ages. Women in miracle accounts have much to tell us about medieval ideas of gendered sickness and health, yet this is an area which has received little scholarly attention. Focusing on stories of female deformity and disfigurement, it is argued that sickness has a feminising effect on women's bodies in these sources, but proposed that symptoms of excess femininity were not always seen as the spiritual hindrance that might be expected." - [Reproduced from the journal page on the Wiley website.]

February 2022


Andrea Mantegna, Detail of an African woman from the Oculus in the Camera Picta, 1464-1475, painted for Lodovico Gonzaga, Marchese of Mantua. The illusionistic painting presents a view of the sky with putti and women gazing from above (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain). See Maria Maurer's blog entry, "Gender, Race and Representation," for more information.

Barker, Hannah. "The Risk of Birth: Life Insurance for Enslaved Pregnant Women in Fifteenth-Century Genoa." Journal of Global Slavery 6, 2 (2021): 187-2017.

Abstract: "Why did fifteenth-century Genoese slaveholders insure the lives of enslaved pregnant women? I argue that their assessment of the risks associated with childbirth reflected their views on the connection between slavery, property, and lineage. Genoese slaveholders saw the reproductive labor of enslaved women as a potential contribution to their lineage as well as their property. Because their children by enslaved women might become their heirs, Genoese slaveholders were inclined to worry about and seek protection against the risk of maternal mortality. In the context of the commercial revolution and the rise of third-party insurance, they developed life insurance for enslaved pregnant women to complement the fines already required of those who illegally impregnated enslaved women and thereby endangered their lives." - [Reproduced from the journal page on the Brill website.]

January 2022


Jeanne of Navarre receives a copy of the Speculum dominarum written for her by Durand of Champagne, 1428, French, London, British Museum, Ms Royal 19 B XVI, fol. 2r (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain). This guide for women was written in the last years of the 13th century and translated into the vernacular as the Miroir des dames.

Neal, Kathleen Bronwyn. "Royal Women and Intra-Familial Diplomacy in Late Thirteenth-Century Anglo-French Relations." Women's History Review 30, 5 (2021): 790-804.

Abstract: "This article examines the diplomatic activities of four royal women related to the kings of England and France in the late thirteenth century, during a period of heightened tension in Anglo-French relations. Elite medieval women probably regularly worked in diplomacy between their natal, marital and extended kin, but it is rare that it can be demonstrated in detail. In this example, substantial evidence shows how Marguerite of Provence, Marie of Brabant, Jeanne of Navarre and Blanche of Artois, worked in close collaboration with their male relations and took initiative in negotiating treaties, sharing intelligence, and acting as brokers of favour.
That these efforts failed with dramatic consequences probably explains both the richness of extant evidence about the case, and its dismissive treatment by contemporaries and modern historians alike. Instead, it is argued that women's intra-familial diplomacy remained valued by kings and popes, and, indeed, reflected standard diplomatic practice of the time." - [Reproduced from the journal page on the Taylor & Francis Online website.]

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