Women and Reform in the Central Middle Ages

Fiona J. Griffiths

in The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe

Published in print August 2013 | ISBN: 9780199582174
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191749919 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Women and Reform in the Central Middle Ages

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


Show Summary Details


This essay considers women's involvement in the various reform movements of the central Middle Ages: papal reform, monastic revival, and the general movement for spiritual renewal that inspired laywomen and laymen to adopt a religious life within the world. Recent scholarship has constructed reform as having either opposed women (associating all women with threats to priestly chastity and unleashing a powerful clerical misogyny) or largely ignored them (concerning itself primarily with masculinity). Drawing important insights from both approaches, this article combines considerations of women's experience within reform with men's perceptions of women and sexuality. Women were not absent from reform, nor were they necessarily opposed by it; rather, they were omnipresent as reformers themselves, as supporters of reform, as its opponents, and as its objects. They were also omnipresent in the rhetoric of reform, which adopted the language of sexuality and pollution to express reforming goals and define perceived opponents.

Keywords: Herluca of Epfach; Pope Gregory VII; clerical marriage; nuns; monasticism; papacy; reform; double monastery; priest's wife

Article.  8545 words. 

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.