[LMB] Education, was Spirit Ring - Fathers & Daughters

Gwynne Powell gwynnepowell at hotmail.com
Wed Sep 8 07:56:50 BST 2021


From: alayne at twobikes.ottawa.on.ca


Why women have needed numeracy and literacy as much as men throughout
European history -- which is not (of course) to say that either sex would
always get this education:....(snips of an excellent answer.)

Gwynne: Just to throw in another idea: We're looking at male vs female
for education, but the big divide was rich vs poor (or, more accurately,
noble vs peasant.)

People in those times didn't use literacy as we do. There was no concept
of reading for idle pleasure. Books were sources of knowledge and
instruction, and to keep records. And they were rare. Many high-born
women had Books of Hours. They kept accounts (running a noble
household was a massive task, a cross between managing a large hotel
and running an important business.) High-born women had the education
they needed to do their job, with plenty of assistance.

Noblemen were educated for different lives. Diplomacy, politics, etc.

The clergy were educated differently again - they kept records, they
read and discussed religious works, they were scribes for the wealthy,
they wrote music, and so on.

The poor didn't need to write much down. Paper or vellum was expensive,
you had to make your ink, make your pens. Keep it all clean. Have suitable
places to store it all. Flat surfaces to write on. It wasn't easy for peasants
to do all this. The rising middle class had more chance, and kept accounts
and records, but books and reading for the sake of it weren't common for
either gender.  And there's not a lot of point in being literate when you have
nothing to read.

Also, most of the records that we do have were kept by monks, who focussed
on the important works of men. And who weren't all that female-friendly. So
they presented a certain view.

Another point: We see literacy as the mark of education. Margery Kempe
was presumed to be illiterate, but she wrote the first autobiography in
English. She was skilled and knowledgeable about religion, and was able
to argue her case in court several times when charged with heresy. (And
defend herself successfully.) Not literate, but certainly not uneducated.

Then there's women like Trotula of Salerno, possibly the world's first
gynaecologist. She was practically written out of history because she was
female, but she was a doctor, certainly an educated women.

They were there, we just don't see them in the histories.


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