And a very happy International Women’s Day to you too! Here, from a perhaps surprising source, is a precis of the history of women’s rights in pre- and early capitalist Europe:
“It is not true that women began to be emancipated in modern times and in proportion to the decline of religion. Woman’s subjection began in the seventeenth century, with the breakup of Christendom, and took on a positive form at the time of the Industrial Revolution. Under the Christian civilization women enjoyed rights, privileges, honors, and dignities which have since been swallowed up by the machine age. No one has better dissipated the false idea than Mary Beard [not that one…] in her scholarly work: Woman as Force in History. She points out that, of eighty-five guilds in England during the Middle Ages, seventy-two had women members on an equal basis with men, even in such professions as barbers and sailors. They were probably as outspoken as men, for one of the rules of the guilds was that “the sistern as well as the brethren” may not engage in disorderly or contumacious debates. In Paris, there were fifteen guilds reserved exclusively for women, while eighty of the Parisian guilds were mixed. Nothing is more erroneous historically than the belief that it was our modern age which recognized women in the professions. The records of these Christian times reveal the names of thousands upon thousands of women who influenced society and whose names are now enrolled in the catalogue of saints Catherine of Siena alone having left eleven large volumes of her writings. Up to the seventeenth century in England, women engaged in business, and perhaps even more so than today; in fact, so many wives were in business that it was provided by law that the husbands should not be responsible for their debts. Between 1553 and 1640,ten per cent of the publishing in England was done by women. Because the homes had their own weaving, cooking, and laundry, it has been estimated that women in pre-industrial days were producing half the goods required by society. In the Middle Ages women were as well educated as men, and it was not until the seventeenth century that women were barred from education. Then, at the time of the Industrial Revolution, all the activities and freedom of women were curtailed, as the machine took over the business of production and men moved into the factory. Then came a loss of legal rights by women, which reached its fullness in Blackstone, who pronounced woman’s “civil death” in law.”
Fulton Sheen – The World’s First Love
I would hate be thought of as contumacious – wouldn’t you?