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Women of the Middle Ages: How to Be the Perfect Wife

In the Middle Ages, men and especially fathers tended to wax eloquent on what young women should do to be the perfect wife. (No wonder so many women decided to become nuns!) There may have been some logic to this instruction given that girls of the nobility (at least) married so young... some as young as 8 years old. [1] Though it is unlikely they engaged in sexual activity that young, by fourteen it was pretty well on. The knight, Geoffroy de La Tour Landry, wrote a book for his daughters warning them of the dangers to be found from men of the world... "for in every place they would have their sport if they could." Though Grimm's Fairy Tales are far in the future, these girls don't need many reminders of how dangerous this world can be for women. [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Listen closely, ladies. I've combed through the medieval texts and found the number one, guaranteed way to win you more marriage proposals than you can shake a stick at. Above all, the perfect wife must possess the ability to keep the fleas off of her husband at night. Yes, ladies. That's the secret to marital bliss in the Middle Ages. Your husband will love you forever if you can manage that and believe me, in the Middle Ages it is no easy feat. I wish you luck. [3]

Renaissance: Speaking of Dante...

Florence, Italy is called the cradle of the Renaissance because of several authors associated with this city-state. Dante was born in Florence and remains a well known author, Even blacksmiths can recite passages from his "Divine Comedy" depicting Heaven and Hell. Though Dante has long since passed away, the people of Florence have hired a lecturer to teach Dante's works every day except for sabbath and holidays. His name is Giovanni Boccaccio and he will become a great author in his own right, but he has a suggestion for his friend, Petrarch. He thinks that Petrarch should stop writing so many good works and leave room for the up-and-coming authors. Petrarch gracefully declines the suggestion. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Petrarch is the well established and popular author but if he stopped writing, his patrons would not buy the works of lesser authors. If a particular author is popular, that doesn't mean that somehow "other voices" are crowded out. This point was made recently on the Rush Limbaugh Show. C-SPAN featured a progressive bookstore owner who boasted that the books she carried were 98% "other voices" that needed to be heard and absolutely no Rush Limbaugh books. She then complained that she wasn't making any money doing it: "We need your help to continue operation of the bookstore. We're not breaking even..." There is a very good reason she is not making money selling those books. I laughed out loud. [11]

Women of the Middle Ages: Revelations of Divine Love

Her real name is unknown but she is called Julian of Norwich. As she lays near death in Saint Julian's Church, a priest holds a crucifix over her and she is granted 16 mystical visions. Amazingly she recovers and records these visions which are quickly published as a small book. It is not only the first book published in English by a woman... it is also reasonably popular. She uses simple words in the language of the people and attempts to relate mystical ideas to a woman's domestic duties. In some sense she sought lessons from the feminine side of God. In 20 years she will publish a longer version of her book, Revelations of Divine Love, and she will connect with readers well into the 19th century. [12] [13] [14] [15]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
She was called Julian of Norwich possibly (but not certainly) because she resided at St. Julian Church in Norwich. She was certainly a private person. She was an anchoress, a woman who lived in isolation and prayer. There is a temptation to suggest that she took on the name Julian when she became an anchoress but it is not the custom in the Middle Ages for a religious person to take on the name of a saint unless he is the Pope. Regarding the feminine side of God, some folks get their hackles up but this view of God as exclusively male is not supported in history or semantics. In Hebrew, words have gender so names, such as the names of God, have gender. While most of those names have male gender such as the Lord, the Creator, the Almighty, etc, one name of God has a female gender. That name is usually translated into English as "The Divine Presence".

Note: (You can skip this part if you wish.) At this point I am required by my religion to point out that God does not have an actual gender but one is allowed metaphorically to refer to God in such a fashion. This is a point of contention between religions so my comments remain in the written summary, but Jack can read this OR NOT as he thinks appropriate. I will not object either way.

[16] [17]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1373, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Joan of Valois, Queen of Navarre - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  2. Tuchman, Barbara Wertheim. (Barbara Tuchman, bio). A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. Ballantine, 1979. pp. 60, 133. (BOOK) quote="After infuriating Charles of Navarre by taking his territory, Jean, in fear of the result, tried to attach him by giving him his eight-year-old daughter, Jeanne, in marriage."
  3. Power, Eileen Edna. (M.A., D.Lit.) Medieval People. Methuen: Barnes & Noble. 1963. p. 111. (BOOK) quote="The chief impression left, however, is that the medieval housewife was engaged in a constant warfare against fleas. One of the Menagier's infallible rules for keeping a husband happy at home is to give him a good fire in the winter and keep his bed free from fleas in the summer."
  4. Tuchman, Barbara Wertheim. (Barbara Tuchman, bio). A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. Ballantine, 1979. pp. 60-61. (BOOK) quote="In Dante's lifetime his verse was chanted by blacksmiths and mule-drivers; fifty years later in 1373 the growth of reading caused the Signoria of Florence, at the petition of citizens, to offer a year's course of public lectures on Dante's work for which the sum of 100 gold florins was raised to pay the lecturer, who was to speak every day except holy days."
  5. Petrarch - Wiki Quotes. Letter to Giovanni Boccaccio (28 April 1373) As quoted in Petrarch : The First Modern Scholar and Man of Letters (1898) edited by James Harvey Robinson and Henry Winchester Rolfe, p. 417. quote="I certainly will not reject the praise you bestow upon me for having stimulated in many instances, not only in Italy but perhaps beyond its confines also, the pursuit of studies such as ours, which have suffered neglect for so many centuries; I am, indeed, almost the oldest of those among us who are engaged in the cultivation of these subjects. But I cannot accept the conclusion you draw from this, namely, that I should give place to younger minds, and, interrupting the plan of work on which I am engaged, give others an opportunity to write something, if they will, and not seem longer to desire to reserve everything for my own pen. How radically do our opinions differ, although, at bottom, our object is the same! I seem to you to have written everything, or at least a great deal, while to myself I appear to have produced almost nothing."
  6. Ford, Jeremiah. Francesco Petrarch. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 23 May 2014 [last update]
  7. Giovanni Boccaccio - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  8. Petrarch - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  9. Divine Comedy - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  10. Dante Alighieri - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  11. Limbaugh, Rush. Rush Revere Books Dissed on C-SPAN2 - The Rush Limbaugh Show. June 16, 2014 (TRANSCRIPT) quote="Menkart: We need your help to continue operation of the bookstore. We're not breaking even and we can't take funds from our programs that are parent-organizing or promote people's history."
  12. Cantor, Norman F. general editor, The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages: Julian of Norwich. Viking Penguin. 1999. p. 268. (BOOK)
  13. Jones, E. A., A Mystic by Any Other Name: Julian(?) of Norwich. Mystics Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 3/4 (SEPTEMBER/DECEMBER 2007). pp. 1-17. Penn State University Press. (JOURNAL)
  14. Revelations of Divine Love - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  15. Julian of Norwich - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  16. Shekhinah (Divine Presence) - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  17. Anchorite - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]

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