Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Marni D. Sheppeard

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Women at Work

Until the 1200s women in Europe often worked for a living, even for themselves, and played prominent roles in public life. It was the priests and noble women who learned to read, because noble men had to focus on fighting. The slow demise of women was undoubtedly heavily influenced by Christian thought, but as an institution the Church was not solely responsible for curbing their rights.
An early culprit was that fine new European institution, the University. Historically, many women had practised empirical medicine, but from 1271 the University of Paris insisted upon formal certification. By the early 1300s, women were being prosecuted for practicing medicine unlawfully. One example is Jacqueline Felicie de Alemania.
In Opera Muliebra, David Herlihy argues that women continued to be employed in many professions up until the population growth of the 1400s, after the great plague. In this century the power of the professional guilds was largely responsible for excluding women from apprenticeships.
The Church had tried to put women in their place for a millenium, without much success. The overriding factor in this story is that urban men wanted good work, once they had stopped fighting each other, and this was most easily achieved by excluding women, with excuses from Christian thought.


Blogger Ulla said...

I hope I could find your book somewhere. These thoughts are not new in any way, but you have experience.

Once I read that the early church had big difficulties with women, they were priests, bishops, economists, rulers... They were soldiers too, very strong women. They were more often priests than men, and then the churh adopted the Paulian (judean) thoughts more and more, and so, finally, succeeded in getting women passported away from important posts in the church (The important letters from Paul were probably false). The controvers with the french ruler Philip did the rest around y. 1000. This was the dark ages.

Today the same is easily seen. Worse times - lesser women on top-jobs, and less salary to women.

The only way to get rid of this is to FORCE MEN TO GET CHILDREN too. Not literally, but they would have to pay if they don't take parents vacation. The parenthood must feel equally bad (?) for both genders.

April 11, 2010 6:38 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

Hi Ulla. Of course you have a much better knowledge of and feel for northern European history than I do. But what little I know is depressing enough ...

April 11, 2010 9:17 AM  
Blogger Ulla said...

You know, I have always wished I was a man :) Not so any more. They have their own difficulties. It is not so easy to have to be strong either. This artificial dichotomy strikes both equally bad, or not equally, no. It is still better to be a man :)

April 11, 2010 7:35 PM  
Blogger Ulla said...

Plato was not much better. He said the women got what they deserved. They must have done something very bad in their previous lives when they were born as women. Maybe it would have been better to be born as a dog :) Their positions were equal?

And Plato was a very wise man?

April 11, 2010 7:43 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Wonderful post! I look forward to reading your book. You could become an advocate for woman scientists.

It is easy to blame the Church, but equal blame goes to that fine European institution, the university. The Church is usually blamed for Galileo's treatment, but the academics of the time were Galileo's first enemies. The Church had final responsibility because it was the government in Italy. Galileo would probably not have been convicted if the academics had defended him. Today's academics still try to put all blame on the Church.

The greatest threat to women today comes from those who get excuses from another religion. Even today they try to prevent girls from attending school, encourage forced marriages and practice mutilation. That is a real threat to women.

Great post, keep your spirits up.

April 12, 2010 6:48 AM  
Blogger Ulla said...

Plato had other ideas too that wasn't so good. Hitler got some of his ideas from Plato? I admire Plato, but not in every thought.

I have too experienced that dogs are better seen than me. And I think we are on entirely different problem levels when we talk of mutilated girls and burcas. The most surprising thing is that it is the girls mother, self mutilated, that wants to have the girl 'treated'. Some kind of violence, like beating. None is so bad as the one that has self experienced it. None is so cruel as the poor that has won a fortune.

Many times we blame men for what actually are womens problems. Like we blame church for the problems in science. Everywhere it is easier to look for the remedy somewhere else.

But the society should treat everyone equal. I think one of the most important things we can do is to be advocates for equal right for men and woman, in church, as in science, as in life.

April 12, 2010 7:16 PM  

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