Medieval Writings on Secular Women

Medieval Writings on Secular Women

Written by:
Introduction by: Patricia Skinner
Introduction by: Elisabeth van Houts
Edited by: Patricia Skinner
Edited by: Elisabeth van Houts

  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780141439914
  • 448 Pages
  • Penguin Classics
  • Adult


“Woman, who is equal to the moon in the flower of youth,
Is equal to a little old ape after the onset of old age”

This remarkable collection brings together a host of writings from across different regions and cultures of the Middle Ages, from the ninth to the fifteenth century. They are arranged to follow the life stages of a Medieval woman living a secular existence, from infancy and girlhood, through marriage and motherhood, to widowhood and old age. Some women are famous or captured in exceptional circumstances, many more are anonymous: an abandoned baby in Italy, or an epitaph for the female leader of a Synagogue, speaking across the ages. This selection contains an introduction discussing the Medieval woman’s status, separate introductions to each chapter, notes and a bibliography.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.


“An admirable variety of writings (almost 140 of them!) on the stages of women’s lives and the ranges of women’s concerns.  Were I teaching a course on medieval history or culture, this would be a text to consider for adoption.” —William Cotton, Associate Professor, Loyola University, New Orleans, LA