Oda: An Extraordinary Example of a Medieval Woman’s Religious Authority and Economic Power

Oda: An Extraordinary Example of a Medieval Woman’s Religious Authority and Economic Power

Thomas, Emily

Published Online, October, 21 (2009)


Hrotsvit, an educated nun in 10th century Saxony, details and emphasizes the piety and religious devotion of Oda, a 9th century Saxon duchess, who used her religious affiliation and influence to gain economic and political advantages for her family. Oda and her husband Liudolf erected a monastery at Gandersheim, the establishment of which was written down by Hrotsvit around a century later. Oda gained religious influence, even though the church restrained women’s official power in Christianity. Despite religious restrictions and the subsequent limitation of many women’s wealth and influence, some women were able to circumvent such obstacles and, in Oda’s case, even adopt and exercise them as a means of authority. Neither Oda nor Hrotsvit is representative of all medieval women, but I will utilize Hrotsvit’s record on Oda to argue that it was possible for some women to acquire power despite the restrictions affixed by religion and the social role of motherhood. As I consider these limitations and then analyze Oda’s situation for comparison, I will conclude my argument with the claim that Oda’s children acted as her greatest resource in her endeavor to gain religious authority and economic power.


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