By Constance H. Berman
Medieval Feminist Forum, Vol. 41 (2006)
Introduction: One reason for some of the confusion about women’s relative power in the early versus the later middle ages has had to do with unevenness in the publication of medieval of medieval documents. Within a universe in which nearly all documents for the period before the year 1000 CE are published, whatever evidence of women’s activities there was has been published. Historians of women have been able to point to it relatively easily and at one time tended to see it as evidence for a Golden Age. In fact, there is much more surviving evidence overall found for the period after the year 1100, but less of it, overall, is published. Preliminary work in those later medieval documentary materials seemed at first to suggest that women were less important in the later Middle Ages. But such conclusions were based on the incorrect assumption that publication was without gender bias, at least when it came to documents – such as monastic charters – from which a relatively unbiased sample of women’s activities might be extrapolated.