According to an Anglo-Saxon maxim: “A woman’s place is at her embroidery.” While Anglo-Saxon women were famous for their highly accomplished needlework, they did not lead confined or passive lives. In fact, they had considerable freedom in law and practice: they exercised many important roles in society. This seminar will explore the everyday life and work of medieval women against a background of the various public and private spaces that they occupied and moved through. Attitudes toward space were especially conditioned by religion. Churchmen established regulations that, for example, allocated men to the right—women to the left side of ecclesiastical buildings, and prohibited female access to certain sacred spaces. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, this illustrated lecture course will look at the different roles and experiences of women within the major centers of medieval life: castle/manor house, church/monastery, city, and countryside. The Middle Ages was one of the most fascinating and formative periods in the history of women. Some of the ideas about women and gendered practices regarding space and place that emerged in the Middle Ages have had a long life and are still around today.
Jane Tibbetts Schulenburg ’65 (Ph.D., UW-Madison) is professor emerita of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she taught in the Department of Liberal Arts and Applied Studies, the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, and the Medieval Studies Program. Her areas of specialization include medieval social and religious history, medieval women’s history, women saints, female monasticism, gender and sacred space, and medieval embroidery. She is the author of numerous studies on medieval women, including her major work, Forgetful of Their Sex: Female Sanctity and Society, ca. 500-1100 (University of Chicago Press, 1998/2000). She is presently working on a book on gender, sacred space and materiality in the Middle Ages. Schulenburg is the recipient of a number of research fellowships and was recognized with Lawrence’s Lucia Briggs Distinguished Achievement Award in 2001 and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Van Hise Teaching Award in 2013. Over the years she organized and led 39 University of Wisconsin medieval study tours to Europe.