Defining woman : an examination of women's roles in the medieval and early modern periods : an honors thesis (HONRS 499)

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Gault, Amy J.
Marion, Rene S.
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Thesis (B.?.)
Honors College
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This paper is an exploration of the expectations that medieval and early modem society held for women. I read and analyzed several primary sources in order to reach my conclusions. I tried to use a variety of sources in order to gain a broader perspective of the expectations late medieval and early modern society held for women. These sources included a set of sermons from Saint Bernardino of Siena, written in 1427; a handbook of advice from an elderly merchant to his young bride, "The Goodman of Paris;" several letters, one from Peter of Blois to Queen Eleanor in 1173 and the "Letters of Direction" written letters between Peter Abelard and his spiritual pupil Eloise; and The Book of the City of Ladies written by Christina de Pizan in the early 1400s. I also used Merry Wiesner's Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe as a secondary source to fill in background information where it was needed. I was able to discover that there was very little difference between the ideals that were expected of religious women versus the set of standards held for their secular counterparts. The main difference was that religious women were held to higher spiritual and moral principles than secular women. Conversely, secular women had more responsibility to household duties such as household management and child-rearing.