Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 6895
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Hollis , Stephanie.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Anglo- Saxon Women: Medieval Knowledge and Miracles of Healing [Thirtieth International Congress on Medieval Studies, the Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University, May 4-7, 1995. Thirtieth Symposium on the Sources of Anglo- Saxon Culture, co- sponsered by the Institute and CEMERS, Binghamton University. Session 134].
  • Source: Old English Newsletter 28, 3 (Spring 1995):
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Healers and Healing Medicine Nuns
  • Award Note:
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 8- 9- 10- 11- 12
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract: Payne (1904) regarded Tacitus' repon that wounded Germanic warriors were treated by women as evidence of an indigenous tradition of medical knowledge, but pointed out that only men are identified as "medici" or as leeches in Anglo-Saxon sources. More recent scholarship postulates the existence of women as domestic and unofficial healers having knowledge of popular lore but excluded from the literary tradition of medical knowledge except insofar as they were treated by educated male practitio- ners. Rubin (1989), for instance, argues for the existence of lay men who were professionally trained leeches, denies the existence of similarly trained women ("sexual equality of opponunity was quite unknown in those days"), but is willing to assume that "midwives and 'wise-women' must have given advice and help in the villages." Monastic women had greater opponunities for contact with Latin-based medical knowledge. This paper examines three kinds of sources: the Boniface correspondence (which reveals that Anglo-Saxon abbesses were among the earliest recipients of exotic substances which figure in Latin medical remedies); hagiography and Bede's "History" (whose authors' intention is to record instances of miraculous healing); manuscripts containing female grammatical forms in which medical remedies are preserved. These sources confirm monastic women's access to medical knowledge; whether we infer that they participated directly in the study and transmission of Latin and vernacular medical literature depends upon the extent to which we assume that male monastics (whose knowledge and use of this literature has always been taken for granted) had a monopoly on literacy. The sources examined also show that double monasteries attracted lay people seeking healing, and this paper suggests the possibility that female religious, like their male counterparts, may have acted as practitioners to the laity [Reproduced by permission of Robert Schicler, the “Abstracts of Papers in Anglo-Saxon Studies” editor, and the editors of the “Old English Newsletter.”].
  • Author's Affiliation: University of Auckland
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1995.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973