Skip to content Skip to navigation

15th c

LHMP entry

The importance of relations (of all types) between women to society and to women’s lives has tended to be overlooked in favor of the more visible relations between men or between women and men. Due to the nature of society, men could assume that their relationships were stable and long-lasting, but women’s relationships could easily be disrupted by the lesser control women had over their own lives. Or women’s relationships might be temporary alliances across social barriers, established for a specific purpose.

I’m including this summary really just for the sake of completeness and because a colleague happened to be reading the book and was willing to scan me the brief relevant section. The book as a whole (as might be determined from the title) looks at the ways that marriage relationships are represented and symbolized in medieval tomb sculpture. In the chapter on “The Double Tomb” there is a section entitled “Queer Tombs” that specifically looks at commemorations of same-sex pairs.

McLaughlin traces the history and internal politics of a planned women’s community in Ferrara in the first half of the 15th century. Although the community eventually shifted (through several branchings) into a traditional religious order, it had started as a secular (though devotional) community and maintained that status for almost 50 years, largely due to the determined and forceful personalities of its successive leaders.

This article examines several passages in Spencer’s Faerie Queene that suggest female homoerotic encounters, either in the context of homosocial affection or primed by gender disguise. Amoret, our damsel in distress, finds herself in the allegorical “Cave of Lust” and encounters another woman bewailing her similar fate there. “Lust” should not be taken as benign pleasure here, but more aligned with sexual assault. The two women exchange stories and bond over their harrowing escapes from lustful pursuit.

Both historic treatises on friendship and academic studies of the concept have primarily focused on male friendships -- the historic treatises because they were written by men in the context of patriarchal societies, and the academic studies, because they largely focus on those treatises and their context. Male-oriented concepts of friendship typically focused on a bond between two men of relatively equal status and standing that represented a sense of “complete identity of feeling about all things” (Cicero) and that often was given formal standing within social and political structures.

The legend of the virgin martyr Katherine of Alexandria became immensely popular in the 14-15th century. It presents the fairly standard story of the Christian daughter of a pagan ruler who resists marriage and supports the Christian community despite increasingly violent threats and punishments. With her increased popularity in the later middle ages, there is a shift from the tone of the earlier texts as “passio” (focused on suffering and martyrdom) to a more detailed “life story” (focusing on the details and context of the subject’s life).

This book is a study of inheritance patterns for women as their parent's daughters (as opposed to inheriting from more distant relations or unrelated persons), based on a collection of London wills dating to 1300-1500. Within this historic context (i.e., 14-15th century London), 15% of women never married.

This article is taken from a more extensive study and edition of Caxton's 15th century English translation of the Vitas Patrum (biographies of early saints) that Lowerre was working on. This paper looks specifically at four "transvestite" saints and one other female saint with similar themes. The author's conclusions are that rather than representing a proto-feminist sentiment, the biographies of the cross-dressing saints reflect an acceptance of the misogyny of the times.

As can be expected from the reference to priests in the title of this article, it focuses mostly on relations between men. But there is some information on women within the more general context of “sodomy” involving clerical personnel.

Pages

Subscribe to 15th c
historical