Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Reading: January 28, 2009; The Burdens of Sister Margaret

This reading, The Burdens of Sister Margaret by Craig Harline, is the story of a young women Margaret Smulders who leaves her home to join a convent in 1604. After spending two years acclimating as a novice, she is voted in and accepted as a full-fledged member of the house. Margaret pledged to remain at the convent for the remainder of her days, however, ten years later Margaret left the convent. There were many stories that circulated throughout the convent as to why she had left. Many of the other women believed that Margaret had sold her soul to the devil and become a witch. They recounted tales of disturbances and other superstitions that had stopped once Margaret left. After a time, Margaret came out with her story. She claimed that she left the house because of the sexual advances of the convent's confessor, Henri Joos. After investigation, Henri Joos was removed from the convent at Bethlehem and Sister Margret welcomed back, although reluctantly by most.

This reading, quite obviously, deals with the theme of religion. It recounts the life of a nun in early 17th century, showing the reader how life was for a nun at the time. It sheds light on the relationship that existed between women, religion, and witchcraft. At the time it was believed that women were more extreme, and therefore more likely to either be very good (devout nuns) or very bad (witches). In fact 80% of the people charged with witchcraft between 1500-1700 were women. We also learn that people believed there to be a connection between sinful acts welcome in evil spirits and possessions.

Another theme of this reading is categories of difference. There are some facts and statistics mentioned that deal with other locations, but almost entirely, the perspective given is one from the Low Countries (Netherlands).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

'The Reformation of Women' Chp. 7 of "Becoming Visible"

Susan C. Karant-Nunn concluded chapter 7 with the firm statement that "the Reformations worsened women's position." Using the Reformation and Counter-Reformation as her historical markers, Karant-Nunn discusses how each reformed path of Christendom led to religious, economic and social refashioning of women's roles in each category; the greatest emphasis is, of course, placed on the changes in the religious practices of women.

In many ways, Karant-Nunn's work parallels Joan Kelly's article, 'Did women have a Renaissance?' Both the Reformation and the Renaissance which seem to provide greater progress for humankind have the opposite affect on women. Karant-Nunn relates how before the Reformation, women were members of confraternities, nuns and healers. She also claims women were allowed some part in feast days, processions and the commissioning of art. Karant-Nunn argues that the Protestants stripped women of such inclusion, focusing more on the role of women as wives and mothers. Many convents were closed, forcing women without skills back into a world they were ill prepared for. Protestant reasoning said that all people had lustful desires and that marriage was ideal to keep such in check and propagate the next generation of Christian believers. Because Protestantism could only survive in state-sponsored environments, both the church and state worked to reign in institutions that supported single women, namely convents and brothels. The Protestant attitude,Karant-Nunn asserts was even more hostile to women than before because it rejected the iconography and worship of the Virgin Mary which provided another woman aside from Eve for women to become associated with.

The Counter-Reformation sought to impose uniformity, which Karant-Nunn argues, led to the narrowing of religious scope for women. Though convents remained an option for women, the movement of nuns into the secular world was much more limited and essentially they were confined within the walls of the convent and more heavily regulated than before.

The final piece Karant-Nunn discusses is the witch craze. She says that without the compliance of theologians, judges, lawyers and magistrates, the with craze never would have occurred; essentially the world view of all these educated men was steeped in religiosity that allowed for the hunting of witches. The witch hunting was associated with females and included treatises written about women and witches and sexual overtones which all reveal in Karant-Nunn's opinion how the anxiety over church and state caused by the Reformations revealed the misogynistic attitudes of the society.

-Deborah Goodwin

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Notes on "The Dominion of Gender of How Women Fared in the High Middle Ages" by Susan Mosher Stuard

As suggested by the title of her essay, Stuard's work focuses mainly on the theme of gender. She critically analyzes how and why gender developed as a category of differentiation in the high Middle Ages as compared to the relative egalitarian understanding of male/female functionality as understood in the early middle ages. The main arguments she uses are that as men became more affluent, the Church became more dominant in people's lives, and the governments of Europe became more solidified women were closed out of opportunities that they had been supported in and even expected to fulfill in earlier centuries.

Stuard also uses a number of other themes to organize her arguments. She relies heavily on changing marriage dowries (marriage/family; economics) and the male clergy's interpretation of Christian doctrine (religion) and classic Aristotelian dogma to explain why women slowly lost rights to govern, make laws, and receive education (citizenship and law; education). Ultimately, the progress that men experienced in these centuries resulted in the loss of rights for women as they were given the negatives of attributes assigned to men. These developments are still impacting our society today, making the modern women's movements necessities for achieving equality (feminism).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recap of the readings for January 14th

Okay, so this is obviously my first time blogging... so sorry about the title with nothing else below this post. oops!

1. I think that Elaine Sciolino's article can fall under Law, Education & Citizenship and Employment & Work. It works in both of these categories because of the emphasis on women's roles in politics both in the past and currently in France. Another category that would work would be Feminism. It is argued in the article that Royal emphasizes both feminine and feminist traits to win over the voting public.

2. Bonnie Erbe's article goes well in the Gender category because it discusses how the roles of men and women are changing in regards to working in the business world and at home. This article also fits under Categories of Difference because it seems that the sample of people discussed were only couples living in urban areas.

3. The Family: A Proclamation to the World goes well in the category of Gender. Throughout the document men and women are referred to in equal terms. though some roles are specifically mentioned for each sex there are no specific limitations put on being able to also participate in other roles as part of a couple or as a parent. Obviously this also goes under Marriage & Family because it discusses both in combination between husband and wife and also in regards to separate responsibilities of each.

4. Categories of Difference is a good fit for Robert Ebert's article because it discusses the way class and age differences between Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh were ignored or smoothed over in the movie. It also works in Feminism in that the movie seems to take a woman who was in charge of the country and downplays that role to the point that the focus on her is the romantic aspect of her life which in reality did not even exist.

5. Robin Abcarian's article on the public's reaction to Sarah Palin as a Vice Presidential Candidate could be put into the category of Feminism because the article mentions how Palin is representing a new type of feminist. A conservative feminist. Also, the article goes well with Marriage & Family because it discusses how Palin's family represents a sort of opposite of the traditional American household. Palin is a mother of 5 who has a very demanding career but whose husband is extremely supportive of it. That idea is different and still somewhat new to many people in the world today.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gender: An Overview of Monday's Reading

The theme that I found most prevalent in the introduction of "Becoming Visible" was gender. As for the reading itself since it was an introduction to a text that complied essays on women in European History it focused on its own purpose and the themes over which the essays portend. The themes that the introduction are split into are gender relations, women's work, and women in politics. The reason the intro falls under the theme gender is because that is what is discussed throughout the work. Under each heading or theme the author goes through time, starting with ancient Egypt down to the present, and elaborates on the differences between the genders. It also explains the generalized differences between what was expected of men and women during those different times and throughout different cultures. The significance of using the gender theme in the introduction is that it shows us, somewhat briefly, the overall changes in gender, in relations between the two, in the work of women, and in women in politics.

As for the second piece of reading it also falls under the theme of gender. In Joan Kelly's work she uses gender or the differing ideals of men and women, as well as the differences in their power during the Medieval period and that of the Renaissance period, to show that unlike most men the Renaissance for women actually meant a decrease in power and another shift in gender relations. To some the piece could more directly be placed under the theme of marriage and family because of Kelly's emphasis. But that is only part of the whole picture, because Kelly uses marriage, family, the courtly love of the medieval period, and ladies of the court in the Renaissance to show the shift in even the minor power that was granted women in the medieval period to that of their husbands.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Welcome to History 318 - European Women's History Since 1400

This course is designed to provide the student with a general knowledge of European women’s lives since 1400 and the historiography of women’s history and gender history. Class will consist of a combination of lectures, discussions, exams, reports, and class presentations. Discussion is encouraged during all class times.