“My Most Honored Ladies”

“My most honored ladies”[i]

Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies

Many women in the Middle Ages refused to abide by conventional behavior expected of men and women in the Middle Ages.


Can we apply a modern term to an earlier age? If we adhere to this definition of a feminist—“a woman who valued other women as women”[2]—we will see that, yes, some of our women were feminists. A feminist acts to fulfill her inner calling, as Margery Kempe does. A feminist helps others to achieve fulfillment, like Hildegard von Bingen who sets up a convent for her fellow women. A feminist takes on a ‘man’s role,’ like Joan of Arc, Margaret of Beverley, and the explorer Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir. A feminist champions the idea that women should be recognized as human beings, like Christine de Pizan. There are many types of feminists and feminisms.

[i] Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, translated by Earl Jeffrey Richards (NY: Persea Books, 1982), 254.

[2 Barbara Hill, “Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Anna Komnene’s Attempted Usurpation,” In Anna Komnene and Her Times, edited by Thalia Gouma-Peterson (NY: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2000), 45-6.