Some Parallels in the Education of Medieval Jewish and Christian Women

Some Parallels in the Education of Medieval Jewish and Christian Women

Baskin, Judith R.

Jewish History, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Spring, 1991) 


We know too little about the education of European Jewish women during the Middle Ages. Our knowledge rests on only a few sources, Hebrew or otherwise. It may, however, be possible to fill in some of the gaps, if we interpret the little about which we are reasonably confident in terms of our more secure and broader knowledge about the education of Christian women. My purpose, therefore, is not so much to bring new materials to bear as to benefit from contrasting the fruits of earlier research. My justification for employing this strategy is straightforward: the education and preparation for adulthood of both Jewish and Christian women, especially Christians belonging to the urban bourgeoisie, were often remarkably similar. Parallels are to be found, particularly with respect to literacy, religious training, and domestic and business knowledge. Yet there was at least one significant difference, related directly to the distinct Jewish and Christian cultures. Christian women occasionally achieved a thorough education, including a Latin one, but they usually did so in the convent.

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