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Some Parallels in the Education of Medieval Jewish and Christian Women

Judith R. Baskin
Jewish History
Vol. 5, No. 1 (Spring, 1991), pp. 41-51
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20101094
Page Count: 11
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Some Parallels in the Education of Medieval Jewish and Christian Women
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Abstract

Limited information about the education of Ashkenazic Jewish women during the Middle Ages may be enhanced by comparisons based on our broader knowledge about the education of urban bourgeois Christian women. Preparation of a girl for adulthood was strikingly similar among both groups, and parallels include attitudes about what a woman should be taught, the desirability of limited religious training, and the acquisition of domestic expertise. Thus, both communities restricted most female education to literacy in the vernacular, instruction in basic religious practices, and the acquisition of skills necessary to run a household and participate in family economic activities. Didactic writings directed at women from both traditions are remarkably similar. Learned women existed but were so rare among Jews and Christians as to be regarded as anomalous and the stuff of legend. Such Jewish women, generally daughters of the learned elite, led women's prayer groups, taught other women, and assisted their husbands. Learned Christian women were more likely to be single, and either in the convent or closely connected with the nobility. /// [Abstract in Hebrew].

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