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Women's Education and Literacy in England, 1066–1540

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 April 2021

Megan J. Hall*
Medieval Institute, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN
*Corresponding author. Email:


This essay provides a holistic review of what girls and young women learned, and the settings in which they learned, in the Middle Ages in England between the Norman Conquest (1066) and the Dissolution of the Monasteries (late 1530s). Education of girls was carried out in households, elementary schools, and nunneries, as well as through employment and apprenticeship. Girls were taught a wide range of subjects, depending on their socioeconomic status, including practical skills, reading comprehension, and social accomplishments. This essay also provides a review to date of the scholarship on the topic.

Copyright © History of Education Society 2021

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1 The closest is Gardiner's, Dorothy English Girlhood at School: A Study of Women's Education through Twelve Centuries (London: Oxford University Press, 1929)Google Scholar. Medieval women's education (ca. 500–1500) receives six of eighteen chapters.

2 See Clanchy, Michael T., From Memory to Written Record: England 1066–1307, 3rd ed. (Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013)Google Scholar, esp. ch. 7, “Literate and Illiterate”; and Graff, Harvey J., The Legacies of Literacy: Continuities and Contradictions in Western Culture and Society (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 373ffGoogle Scholar.

3 Clanchy, From Memory, 236. See also Orme, Nicholas, English Schools in the Middle Ages (London: Methuen, 1973), 4950Google Scholar.

4 Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, “‘Invisible Archives?’ Later Medieval French in England,” Speculum 90, no. 3 (July 2015), 653–73. For more on levels of reading Latin, see David Bell, What Nuns Read: Books and Libraries in Medieval English Nunneries (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1995), 59–60; and Malcolm B. Parkes, “The Literacy of the Laity,” in Scribes, Scripts, and Readers: Studies in the Communication, Presentation, and Dissemination of Medieval Texts (London: Hambledon Press, 1991), 275–97, at 275.

5 On languages in medieval England, see Amanda Hopkins, Judith Anne Jefferson, and Ad Putter, Multilingualism in Medieval Britain (c. 1066–1520): Sources and Analysis (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2012).

6 W. M. Ormrod, “The Use of English: Language, Law, and Political Culture in Fourteenth-Century England,” Speculum 78, no. 3 (July 2003), 750–87, at 755; and William Rothwell, “Language and Government in Medieval England,” Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Literatur 93, no. 3 (1983), 258–70.

7 Bell, What Nuns Read, 57.

8 On the complexities of a trilingual England, with a number of helpful citations therein for further reading, see Christopher Cannon, “Vernacular Latin,” Speculum 90, no. 3 (July 2015), 641–53.

9 J. W. Adamson, “The Extent of Literacy in England in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries: Notes and Conjectures,” The Library s4-X, no. 2 (Sept. 1929), 163–93, at 188.

10 A variety of frameworks were imposed upon the ages of humankind, though these major divisions for the stages of childhood were fairly commonly accepted. See Nicholas Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry: the Education of the English Kings and Aristocracy, 1066–1530 (London: Methuen, 1984), 5–7; and Daniel T. Kline, “Female Childhoods,” in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Women's Writing, ed. Carolyn Dinshaw and David Wallace (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 13–20, at 13.

11 Nicholas Carlisle, A Concise Description of the Endowed Grammar Schools in England and Wales; Ornamented with Engravings, 2 vols. (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1818).

12 Among Leach's numerous contributions, perhaps the most fundamental on this topic is The Schools of Medieval England (New York: Macmillan, 1915). Leach notes that he himself was indebted to F. J. Furnivall, ed., Early English Meals and Manners: John Russell's Boke of Nurture, [. . .] The Birched School-Boy, EETS o.s. 32 (London: Oxford University Press, 1868). On the difficulties with Furnivall's work, see Nicholas Orme's excellent review of early scholarship on medieval education. Nicholas Orme, introduction to English Schools in the Middle Ages (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 1–10.

13 Nicholas Orme, Medieval Schools: From Roman Britain to Renaissance England (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006); and Nicholas Orme, Medieval Children (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001).

14 Eileen Power, Medieval English Nunneries, c. 1275 to 1535 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1922).

15 Alexandra Barratt, “Small Latin? The Post-Conquest Learning of English Religious Women,” in Anglo-Latin and Its Heritage, Essays in Honour of A. G. Rigg on His 64th Birthday, ed. Siân Echard and Gernot R. Wieland (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2001), 51–65; and J. G. Clark, “Monastic Education in Late Medieval England,” in The Church and Learning in Late Medieval Society: Essays in Honour of R. B. Dobson; Proceedings of the 1999 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. Caroline Barron and Jenny Stratford (Donington, UK: Shaun Tyas/Paul Watkins, 2002), 25–40.

16 Dorothy Gardiner, English Girlhood at School: A Study of Women's Education Through Twelve Centuries (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1929).

17 For a deeper dive into the history of modern studies on medieval English education, see Joel T. Rosenthal, “English Medieval Education Since 1970—So Near and Yet So Far,” History of Education Quarterly 22, no. 4 (Winter 1982), 499–511.

18 Michael Clanchy, Looking Back from the Invention of Printing: Mothers and the Teaching of Reading in the Middle Ages (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2018).

19 For his discussion of this, see Parkes, “Literacy of the Laity.”

20 Ralph V. Turner, “The Miles Literatus in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century England: How Rare a Phenomenon?,” American Historical Review 83, no. 4 (Oct. 1978), 928–45; Ralph V. Turner, “The Judges of King John: Their Background and Training,” Speculum 51, no. 3 (July 1976), 447–61; and K. B. McFarlane, The Nobility of Later Medieval England: The Ford Lectures for 1953 and Related Studies (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1973).

21 Jo Ann Hoeppner Moran, The Growth of English Schooling, 1340–1548: Learning, Literacy, and Laicization in Pre-Reformation York Diocese (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), 39–49.

22 Excellent starting points for the work on this are Bella Millett, “Women in No Man's Land: English Recluses and the Development of Vernacular Literature in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries,” in Women and Literature in Britain, 1150–1500, 2nd ed., ed. Carol Meale (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 86–103; Susan Uselmann, “Women Reading and Reading Women: Early Scribal Notions of Literacy in the Ancrene Wisse,” Exemplaria 16, no. 2 (July 2004), 369–404; Elizabeth Robertson, “‘This Living Hand’: Thirteenth-Century Female Literacy, Materialist Immanence, and the Reader of the Ancrene Wisse,” Speculum 78, no. 1 (Jan. 2003), 1–36; and Megan J. Hall, “Women's Literacy in the Early English Anchorhold,” in Women Intellectuals and Leaders in the Middle Ages, ed. Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, Katie Anne-Marie Bugyis, and John van Engen (Woodbridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 2020), 277–90.

23 Susan Groag Bell, “Medieval Women Book Owners: Arbiters of Lay Piety and Ambassadors of Culture,” Signs 7, no. 4 (Summer 1982), 742–68. For an examination of how the field has progressed since Bell's essay and a bibliography of other important reading, see Fiona J. Griffiths, “Susan Groag Bell's ‘Medieval Women Book Owners’ After 35 Years,” Journal of Women's History 29, no. 3 (Fall 2017), 208–13.

24 Eileen Power, Medieval People (London: Methuen, 1924); and Eileen Power, Medieval Women (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1975).

25 John Lawson and Harold Silver, A Social History of Education in England (London: Routledge, 1973).

26 Barbara A. Hanawalt, The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England (London: Oxford University Press, 1986); Barbara A. Hanawalt, Growing Up in Medieval London: The Experience of Childhood in History (London: Oxford University Press, 1993); Barbara A. Hanawalt, The Wealth of Wives: Women, Law, and Economy in Late Medieval London (London: Oxford University Press, 2007); and Kline, “Female Childhoods.”

27 Merridee L. Bailey, Socialising the Child in Late Medieval England, c. 1400–1600 (Woodbridge, UK: York University Press, 2012).

28 For an excellent overview of the paths of learning, see Orme, Medieval Schools, 53–85.

29 The National Archives: Public Record Office C146/1229; transcribed in “56. Agreement for the Maintenance and Education of Isabel, Daughter of Thomas Stonor 1st Dec., 1432,” in The Stonor Letters and Papers, 1290–1483, vol. 1, ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford (London: Royal Historical Society, 1919), 50. Translations are mine unless otherwise noted. For discussion, see Jennifer C. Ward, trans. and ed., Women of the English Nobility and Gentry, 1066–1500 (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1995), 75–77.

30 The National Archives: Public Records Office DL 28/1/6 fol. 36, accounts of William Loveney, clerk of the great wardrobe of Henry of Lancaster, earl of Derby. Orme describes both the church wall and Loveney's account in From Childhood to Chivalry, 158.

31 “No. 8 Brian Rocliffe to Sir William Plumpton,” December 1463, No. 11, p. 155; CB 618 in The Plumpton Letters and Papers, trans. and ed. Joan Kirby (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 30.

32 Adamson, “Extent of Literacy,” 166.

33 For discussion and examples of learning to read, see Orme, Medieval Children, 246–72; Orme, English Schools, 56–66; Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 130; Moran, Growth of English Schooling, 39–49.

34 Robert of Torigni [Robertus de Monte], Historia nortmannorum liber octavus de Henrico I rege anglorum et duce northmannorum, ed. J.-P. Migne, Patrologia cursus completus, series latina 149 (Paris, 1853), col. 886; translated in “History of King Henry the First, by Robert de Monte,” ed. Joseph Stevenson, The Church Historians of England vol. 2, part 1 (London, 1858), 10.

35 Transcribed in Symeonis Dunelmensis Opera et Collectanea, ed. J. Hodgson Hinde, vol. 1 (London, 1868), at 238, 241, from the version preserved in London, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius D iii, fols. 179v–186r (late twelfth century).

36 Simonne R. T. O. d'Ardenne and Eric J. Dobson, eds., Seinte Katerine (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1981), 6.53.

37 Mary Flowers Braswell, ed., “Ywain and Gawain,” in Sir Perceval of Galles and Ywain and Gawain (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1995), ll.888–9 and 3088–9. On household reading, see Orme, Medieval Children, 274–304.

38 On household libraries, see particularly Christopher Cannon, “Vernacular Latin,” Speculum 90, no. 3 (July 2015), 641–53; Parkes, “Literacy of the Laity”; and Elizabeth Salter, English and International: Studies in the Literature, Art and Patronage of Medieval England, ed. Derek Pearsall and Nicolette Zeeman, 1988 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010), esp. Part 1.

39 Power, Medieval Women, 85–86.

40 See Diane Watt, The Paston Women: Selected Letters (Rochester, NY: D. S. Brewer, 2004).

41 See J. W. Thompson, The Literacy of the Laity in the Middle Ages (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1939), 170–71.

42 Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 451 (S.C. 2401), fol. 119b.6–7; the colophon reads “salua et incolomis maneat per secula scriptrix” (May this female scribe remain safe and unharmed forever). For more on this manuscript see P. R. Robinson, “A Twelfth-Century Scriptrix from Nunnaminster,” in Of the Making of Books: Medieval Manuscripts, Their Scribes and Readers. Essays Presented to M. B. Parkes, ed. P. R. Robinson and Rivkah Zim (Aldershot, UK: Scolar Press, 1997), 73–93.

43 The lack of evidence for female Latin composition in England might be for any or all of these reasons: no composition taking place, scarce survival for composition activity, or heavy deployment of the humility topos, as numerous Latin compositions by women survive from the Continent in this period. Slightly more attributed materials survive in Anglo-Norman and English. For a discussion, see Bell, What Nuns Read, 67.

44 Bell, What Nuns Read, 61–66; and Power, Medieval English Nunneries, 247–54.

45 On social learning, see Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, especially chap. 1, 5. On medicine, see also Power, Medieval Women, 86.

46 Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 193.

47 Power, Medieval Women, 86.

48 Kim M. Phillips, Medieval Maidens: Young Women and Gender in England, 1270–1540 (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2003), 61–71, at 62. It is important to note as well that the practice of silent reading did not develop until later in the Middle Ages, so much reading was oral for both boys and girls. On this, see Paul Saenger, Space Between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997).

49 On the cult of St. Anne and the teaching of reading, see Orme, Medieval Children, 244–45; and Clanchy, “Did Mothers Teach their Children to Read?,” in Motherhood, Religion, and Society in Medieval Europe, 400–1400: Essays Presented to Henrietta Leyser, ed. Conrad Leyser and Lesley Smith (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011), 129–53. One example may be found in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson Liturg.d.1, dating from c. 1420; fol. 100v contains an inhabited initial showing St. Anne using a book to teach Mary. For further examples and a detailed analysis of the Education of the Virgin motif, see Wendy Scase, “St. Anne and the Education of the Virgin,” in England in the Fourteenth Century: Proceedings of the 1991 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. Nicholas Rogers (Stamford, UK: Paul Watkins, 1993), 81–98.

50 Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 231, fol. 3r.

51 For a discussion of this window, see Orme, Medieval Children, 244–45.

52 Peter Alfonsi's Disciplina Clericalis (early twelfth century), John of Salisbury's Policraticus (mid-twelfth century), Gerald of Wales's De principis instructione (early thirteenth century), Vincent of Beauvais's De eruditione filiorum nobilium (mid-thirteenth century), the Secretum secretorum (first half of the thirteenth century), Giles of Rome's De regimine principum (late thirteenth century), Jean Golein's translation of De administratione principum (fourteenth or fifteenth century), the Three Considerations (fifteenth century), Thomas Hoccleve's Regement of Princes (early fifteenth century), and an encyclopedia by Bartholomew the Englishman, De proprietatibus rerum (late thirteenth century) are but a few of the more influential texts.

53 Though these treatise writers were French, their work was influential in England (see Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 86, 94–95, 90–97, 107, 157).

54 John Trevisa, On the Properties of Things: John Trevisa's Translation of Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum: A Critical Text, ed. and trans. M. C. Seymour, vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 301–02.

55 John Trevisa, The Governance of Kings and Princes: John Trevisa's Middle English Translation of the De regimine principum of Aegidius Romanus, ed. David C. Fowler et al. (New York: Garland Publishing, 1997), 245–249.

56 Vincent of Beauvais, De eruditione filiorum nobilium [On the education and instruction of noble children], ed. Arpad Steiner (Cambridge, MA: Medieval Academy of America, 1938), 172–220. In this text, Vincent draws on a long spiritual tradition, tracing back to Jerome in the fifth century, of the education of girls for spiritual development. Particularly influential are Jerome's letters to Laeta, Eustochium, Demetrias, and Salvinia (Vincent of Beauvais, De eruditione filiorum nobilium, xiv). See the discussion in Groag Bell, “Medieval Women Book Owners,” 162.

57 For further discussion, see Clanchy, From Memory, 199–202.

58 Dionisie had recently married the aristocrat Warin de Munechensi, gaining two young stepchildren; she also gave birth to a son in the year after her marriage. For more of the background of the Tretiz, see Andrew Dalby, trans. and ed., introduction to The Treatise (Le Tretiz) of Walter of Bibbesworth (Totnes, UK: Prospect Books, 2012). The quotation comes from p. 38.

59 Dalby, Treatise of Walter of Bibbesworth, 21–28.

60 On the spread of the text, see Dalby, Treatise of Walter of Bibbesworth, 21.

61 London, British Library, Harley MS 1764.

62 Geoffroy de la Tour Landry, Here begynneth the booke which the knyght of the toure made, and speketh of many fayre ensamples and thensygnementys and techyng of his doughters, trans. and ed. William Caxton (Westminster, England, 1484).

63 See T. F. Mustanoja, ed., The Good Wife Taught Her Daughter, The Good Wife Wold a Pylgrymage, The Thewis of Gud Women (Helsinki, Finland: Suomalaisen Tiedeakatemian toimituksia, 1948); and Eve Salisbury, ed., The Trials and Joys of Marriage (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2002).

64 Felicity Riddy, “Mother Knows Best: Reading Social Change in a Courtesy Text,” Speculum 71, no. 1 (Jan. 1996), 66–86, at 67.

65 Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 141.

66 Bailey, Socialising the Child, 58–72.

67 Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 161.

68 Boys (especially royal princes) typically followed the same path of moving from the nursery into the care of an educator-caretaker: pedagogus (a term used into the eleventh century) or magister or me[i]stre (terms in use from the twelfth century forward) (Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 19).

69 Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 27.

70 Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 26; and Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. Henry Richards Luard, vol. 5: A.D. 1248 to A.D. 1259, Rolls Series 57 (London, 1880), 235.

71 Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 26–27; and Caroline Dunn, “Serving Isabella of France: From Queen Consort to Dowager Queen,” in Royal and Elite Households in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: More Than Just a Castle, ed. Theresa Earenfight (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2018), 169–201.

72 Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 27.

73 The National Archives: Public Records Office, E 403/41 sub 1 Dec; London, College of Arms, MS I.II, fol. 21. Orme discusses these records in From Childhood to Chivalry, 28.

74 J. S. Brewer et al., eds., Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, vol. 1.1, no. 2656 (London: Longmans, 1864–1932), 1162; and A. B. Emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to AD 1500, vol. 2 (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1957–59), 1148. For further discussion of this education, see Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 28.

75 Brewer, Letters and Papers, 2.1, 874; 2, 1191; 3.1, 323.

76 Gui de Warewic, Roman du XIIIe Siècle, ed. Alfred Ewert, 2 vols. (Paris: É. Champion, 1932–33), 3.63–68; Joseph Gildea, ed., Partonopeu de Blois—A French Romance of the Twelfth Century (Villanova, PA: Villanova University Press, 1967–70), 1.186-8, ll. 4/575-628; and “L'Estoire de Merlin,” in The Vulgate Version of Arthurian Romances, Le Livre d'Artus, ed. H. O. Sommer, 8 vols. (Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution, 1909–1916), 2.211-12, 253, 338.

77 Seinte Katerine, ed. Simonne R. T. O. d'Ardenne and Eric J. Dobson, EETS s.s. 7 (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1981), 6.53, 8.82-86, 26.329, 7.76-8.81.

78 Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 45.

79 John of Gaunt's Register, 1379–83, ed. Eleanor C. Lodge and Robert Somerville (London: Royal Historical Society, 1937), 1.106-7, 2.259.

80 Orme discusses these examples in From Childhood to Chivalry, 59.

81 Power, Medieval Women, 82.

82 “Floris and Blancheflour,” in Sentimental and Humorous Romances, ed. Erik Kooper, TEAMS Middle English Texts Series (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2005), ll.10-12.

83 Kooper, “Floris and Blancheflour,” ll.109-12.

84 See Power, Medieval English Nunneries, 4.

85 Power, Medieval Women, 80-81; Power, Medieval English Nunneries, 262-84, 568–81; Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 56–59; and Power, Medieval Schools, 285–87.

86 Rôles Gascons, ed. C. Bémont, vol. 2 (Paris, 1900), 178; R. B. Pugh and Elizabeth Crittall, eds., A History of Wiltshire, vol. 3 (London: Victoria County History, 1956), 247.

87 “CXXXIII. The Will of Beatrix Lady Greystock [Reg. Test. vi. 141.],” in Testamenta eboracensia; or, Wills registered at York, illustrative of the history, manners, language, statistics, &c., of the province of York, from the year 1300 downwards, ed. James Raine, vol. 4 (London: J. B. Nichols, 1836), 238.

88 Power, Medieval Women 81.

89 “The Reeve's Tale,” in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd ed. (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2008). The full portrait of the wife runs ll. 3942–68.

90 Josiah Cox Russell estimates the total number of nuns right before the fourteenth-century plague at 4,831, contrasted with the total number of male religious at 13,600; this compares with an estimated total population of about 5 million. “The Clerical Population of Medieval England,” Traditio 2 (1944), 181, 212. For total population figures, M. Overton and B. M. S. Campbell estimate 4 to 4.5 million. See M. Overton and B. M. S. Campbell, “Production et productivité dans l'agriculture anglais, 1086–1871,” in Histoire et Mesure 11 (1996), 255–97. M. M. Postan and R. M. Smith estimate at least 6 million. See M. M. Postan, “Medieval Agrarian Society in Its Prime: England,” in The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, Vol. I: The Agrarian Life of the Middle Ages, 2nd ed., ed. M. M. Postan (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1966), 549–632; and R. M. Smith, “Demographic Developments in Rural England, 1300–1348: A Survey,” in Before the Black Death: Studies in the “Crisis” of the Early Fourteenth Century, ed. B. M. S. Campbell (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1991), 25–77. For further discussion, see Stephen Broadberry et al., British Economic Growth, 1270–1870: An Output-Based Approach (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

91 Cox Russell estimates nuns totaled 1,576, while male religious totaled 6,740, with an estimated total population of 2.5 million. Cox Russell, “Clerical Population of Medieval England,” 181, 212. For sources of total population, see previous footnote. Eileen Power sets the total number of nunneries at 138, while David Bell updates that to 144. For calculations, see Power, Medieval English Nunneries, 1; R. Midmer, English Mediaeval Monasteries 1066–1540 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979), 357–58; and David Bell, What Nuns Read, 33.

92 Bell, What Nuns Read, 11.

93 Power, Medieval Women, 73; and Power, Medieval Nunneries, 262, 264. Orme, English Schools, 53; and M. C. Knowles and R. N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses, England and Wales, 2nd ed. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1971), 251–89, 493–94.

94 Power, Medieval Nunneries, 408–19; Barratt, “Small Latin,” particularly 51, 65; Bell, What Nuns Read, particularly 65; and Orme, Medieval Schools, 275–78.

95 “Houses of Benedictine Nuns: Sopwell Priory,” in A History of the County of Hertford, vol. 2, ed. William Page (London: Victoria County History, 1908), 422–26.

96 A History of the County of Hampshire, vol. 2, ed. H. Arthur Doubleday and William Page (London: Victoria County History, 1903), 125. The figure for nuns is taken from Cox Russell, “Clerical Population,” 183n1.

97 Power, Medieval Women, 81.

98 J. E. G. de Montmorency, “The Medieval Education of Women in England,” Journal of Education 31 (London; Jan 1, 1909), 427–31.

99 London, British Library, Egerton Roll 8776, m. 4, 5, discussed in Jennifer C. Ward, trans. and ed., Women of the English Nobility and Gentry, 1066–1500 (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1995), 75–77.

100 Power, Medieval English Nunneries, 238, 260.

101 Power, Medieval English Nunneries, 277–78. Because nuns came primarily from the upper classes and were well positioned to have received a good education, either in their own homes or in nunneries, they in turn could have provided a good education to their students.

102 Power, Medieval English Nunneries, 255–60.

103 Claire M. Waters, trans. and ed., “Le Fresne,” in The Lais of Marie de France: Text and Translation (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2018), 116–143, at ll.237–40, 253–54.

104 Anna Laskaya and Eve Salisbury, eds., “Lay le Freine,” in The Middle English Breton Lays, TEAMS Middle English Text Series (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1995), ll.237, 238, 394–95.

105 Geoffrey Chaucer, “General Prologue” of the Canterbury Tales, in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). The Prioress's full portrait runs ll.117–62.

106 Lois Honeycutt, Matilda of Scotland: A Study in Medieval Queenship (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2003), 18.

107 William of Malmesbury, De Gestis Regum Anglorum. Libri quinque: Historiae Novellae Libri Tres, Edited From Manuscripts, ed. William Stubbs, 2 vols. (London, 1889), 2.493. Bell offers the translation of “foemineum pectus” as “what it means to be a [medieval] woman.” See What Nuns Read, 84n38.

108 Jane Stevenson, “Anglo-Latin Women Poets,” in Latin Learning and English Lore: Studies in Anglo-Saxon Literature for Michael Lapidge, vol. 2, ed. Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe and Andy Orchard (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), 86–107, at 95; and J. F. Tatlock, “Muriel: The Earliest English Poetess,” PMLA 48 (1933), 317–21.

109 Stevenson, “Anglo-Latin Women Poets,” 294.

110 On the Life of St. Edward, see Bell, What Nuns Read, 62; and Wogan-Browne, “‘Invisible Archives?,’” 659–62. On Clemence of Barking, see Anne Savage and Nicholas Watson, trans. and ed., Anchoritic Spirituality: Ancrene Wisse and Associated Works (New York: Paulist Press, 1991), 261; Clemence of Barking, The Life of St. Catherine, ed. William MacBain (Oxford, UK: B. Blackwell, 1964). As David Bell points out, it is unknown whether the translator of the Vita Sancti Eduardi learned Latin at Barking, or perhaps from a private tutor at home, as the woman would have come from a noble family. See Bell, What Nuns Read, 62.

111 For a description of the manuscript and a transcription of the inscription, see Bell, What Nuns Read, 137.

112 This manuscript is Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 451 (S.C. 2401), containing Smaragdus's Diadema monachorum, a moral treatise, and fourteen sermons, many by Caesarius of Arles. Robinson discusses this manuscript at length in “A Twelfth-Century Scriptrix.”

113 See, for example, the discussion in Paul Lee, Nunneries, Learning, and Spirituality in Late Medieval English Society: The Dominican Priory of Dartford (Rochester, NY: York Medieval Press, 2001).

114 Bell, What Nuns Read, 62–63.

115 Rome, Ordo Praedicatorum-Curia Generalitia, Archives of the Master-General of the Dominicans; translated in C. F. R. Palmer, “Notes on the Priory of Dartford in Kent,” Archaeological Journal 39 (1882), 177–79. Palmer transcribed Jane's last name as Fitzh'er; I am presuming a contraction of “hugh.”

116 The teaching of French was really only required after about the thirteenth century, as Bell notes that “most nunneries from the eleventh century to about the thirteenth were populated by women of the upper or noble classes” who would have come from Norman families (Bell, What Nuns Read, 67–8).

117 Bell, What Nuns Read, 34.

118 Bell, What Nuns Read, 71, 75.

119 From the Syon Martiloge in London, British Library, Add. MS 22285, fol. 17r.; printed by R. J. Whitwell, in “An Ordinance for Syon Library, 1482,” English Historical Review 25 (1910), 121–3, at 122.

120 For the indexing of Syon's libraries, see Bell, What Nuns Read, part II.

121 On the Syon library, see Vincent Gillespie, “The Book and the Brotherhood: Reflections on the Lost Library of Syon Abbey,” in The English Medieval Book: Studies in Memory of Jeremy Griffiths, ed. A. S. G. Edwards, Vincent Gillespie, and Ralpha Hanna (London: British Library, 2000), 185–208.

122 Bell, What Nuns Read, 77.

123 As early as the 1220s affective devotional materials written for women in English and French appeared in the West Midlands (the Ancrene Wisse, Katherine Group, and Wooing Group texts); many of these texts eventually appear in books owned by or produced for nunneries as well. On this, see Bella Millett, ed., Ancrene Wisse: A Corrected Edition of the Text in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 402, with Variants from Other Manuscript, 2 vols., EETS o.s. 325, 326 (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2005–2006).

124 For an extensive list of medieval English and Welsh schools, see Orme, Medieval Schools, 346–71.

125 On the difficulties of finding historical documentation of elementary schooling, see Moran, Growth of English Schooling, 92–95.

126 Aelredus Rieuallensis, “De institutione inclusarum,” in Patrologiae Latinae, vol. 32, col. 1453, Patrologiae Cursus Completus, ed. Jacques Paul Migne, (Paris, 1877).

127 Millett, Ancrene Wisse, 1.160. For further discussion, see also R. Baird Shuman, “Educational Materials in the ‘Ancrene Riwle,’” Notes and Queries 202 (Jan. 1957), 189–90.

128 On this, see Megan J. Hall, “Ancrene Wisse and the Education of Laywomen in Thirteenth-Century England,” Early Middle English 2, no. 1 (2020), 51–70; and “At Work in the Anchorhold and Beyond: A Codicological Study of London, British Library, Cotton MS Nero A.xiv,” Journal of the Early Book Society 20 (2017), 1–28.

129 John Raithby, ed., The Statutes of the Realm, vol. 2 (London, 1810), 158.

130 Power, Medieval Women, 84; and Barron, “The Education and Training of Girls in Fifteenth-Century London,” in Courts, Counties, and the Capital in the Later Middle Ages, ed. Diana E. S. Dunn (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996), 139–53.

131 Adamson, “Extent of Literacy,” 190.

132 London, British Library, Harley MS 4795.

133 Sylvia Thrupp, The Merchant Class of Medieval London, 1300–1500 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), 171; and Sylvia Thrupp, “Aliens In and Around London in the Fifteenth Century,” in Studies in London History Presented to Philip Edmund Jones, ed. A. E. Hollaender and W. Kellaway (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1969), 269.

134 Doubleday and Page, A History of the County of Hampshire, 130; and Bell, What Nuns Read, 81n15.

135 Orme, Medieval Children, 242.

136 Hanawalt, Wealth of Wives, 37.

137 Alfred Franklin, La vie privée d'autrefois: arts et métiers, modes, mœurs, usages des parisiens du XVIIe au XVIIIe siècle d'après des documents originaux ou inédits, vol. 10: Écoles et Collèges (Paris 1887–1901), 51. Discussed in Adamson, “Extent of Literacy,” 190.

138 Paris, Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de la Sorbonne, MSAUC 1, liasse 3, pièce 7. The Latin is reproduced in Jourdain, M. Charles, L’Éducation des femmes au moyen âge (Paris, 1871), 25n3Google Scholar.

139 Power, Medieval Women, 84.

140 For an impressive list of the many occupations women undertook, see Power, Medieval Women, 53–75. For a more recent and extensive study of women's occupations, see Goldberg, P. J. P., Women, Work, and Life Cycle in a Medieval Economy: Women in York and Yorkshire c. 1300–1520 (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, especially the chapter “Women and Work.”

141 London records are one of the most robust sources for information on female apprenticeships. See Hovland, Stephanie R., “Girls as Apprentices in Later Medieval London,” London and the Kingdom: Essays in Honour of Caroline M. Barron: Proceedings of the 2004 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. Davies, Matthew and Prescott, Andrew (Donington, UK: Shaun Tyas, 2008), 179–94Google Scholar.

142 Hovland, “Girls as Apprentices,” 187. See also Hanawalt, Wealth of Wives, 37–40.

143 Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 217. For an excellent discussion of the many examples of female apprentices in London from the late medieval period, see Hanawalt, Wealth of Wives, 35–44.

144 Power, Medieval Women, 60.

145 Power, Medieval Women, 61 and 102n12.

146 Power, Medieval Women, 57.

147 Raithby, Statutes of the Realm, 2.158. Hanawalt affirms that London women, usually married women, could take on female apprentices (Hanawalt, Wealth of Wives, 40).

148 Power, Medieval Women, 59; and Hanawalt, Wealth of Wives, 43.

149 Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 217; and Power, Medieval Women, 80.

150 Hanawalt, Wealth of Wives, 37.

151 See Justice, Steven, “Insurgent Literacy,” in Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 1366CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

152 Power, Medieval Women, 63.

153 Power, Medieval Women, 71.

154 Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 212–13. Orme notes that one of the ways in which women exceeded men in education was in artistic work; one way in which men exceeded women was in the ability to receive explicit formal education and in greater training for literary composition and personal scribal work (though, I will add, some women certainly could write).

155 Orme, From Childhood to Chivalry, 216–20, 224–35.

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