[Cont’d from last post]
After the fall of Rome in 476, the only Christian state we have good records of was the Byzantine empire. But more came soon, because over in France, King Clovis I was converted to Catholicism in 496 A.D., and his wife St. Clotilda was an important part of that. This early French queen is an important figure in the history of women’s equality because of her influence over both French history and Christian history. According to the record of her in St. Gregory of Tours’ “History of the Franks,” Books 2-3, she not only converted her husband and helped found the first Christian state in the West after the fall of Rome, but she was an active promoter of peace during a civil war that followed her husband’s death, and she sent for saints and scholars to build up the intellect and the piety of her subjects. Her political influence and promotion of religion was a model for future medieval queens to follow and it demonstrates that early medieval Christianity honored good female leaders.
512 A.D. - Women in leadership - St. Genevieve of Paris dies in this year. A contemporary of St. Clotilde, St. Genevieve should be noted because she helped influence King Clovis’ policies, and, long before his conversion, her prayers and intercessions helped prevent Attila the Hun from sacking Paris.  She is a patron saint of Paris, and also of female soldiers, even though her battle with Attila was spiritual and not physical.
542 A.D. - Women in leadership, women in education - St. Scholastica dies in this year. She was the sister of St. Benedict of Nursia and founder of the order of Benedictine nuns, which paralleled the men’s order founded by her brother.  St. Scholastica’s religious communities offered medieval women high positions of leadership and tremendous educational opportunities through the scholastic facilities of her convents. These became known as convent schools in later ages.
Some words about the Church’s convent schools are appropriate here. The medieval convent schools were some of the oldest co-educational boarding schools in Europe. Possibly the oldest was founded by St. Ita of Ireland, who died in 570 A.D. One of her famous non-female pupils was St. Brendan the Navigator.  St. Waldebert’s rule for female convents (written before 668 A.D.) includes a section on the raising of young boarding students that requires provision of room and board, education, and, of course, food.  Part of what it says is, “[students] should practice reading so that they may become proficient even in childish years,” which shows that literacy was a major focus of these educational institutions.
Besides St. Ita’s convent school, two other famous co-educational facilities were the abbey of Chelle, where King Clothar III (d. 658 A.D.) and King Theuderic IV (d. 737 A.D.) were educated, and the abbey of Soissons, which educated Paschasius Radbertus (d. 865 A.D.), who became the abbot of Corbie. 
544 A.D. - Women’s equality as a doctrine - St. Senan (a nun) dies in this year. She is known for instructing a man she met one day about female equality, and the man later became a saint too. The man had been trying to live as a monk, and when she came to his property to establish a hermitage, he told her that he didn’t want any woman on his island. In reply, she said, “How can you say that? … Christ came to redeem women no less than to redeem men. No less did He suffer for the sake of women than for the sake of men. Women have served and cared for Christ and His Apostles. No less than men do women enter the heavenly kingdom. Why, then should you not allow women on your island?” And he granted her demand. 
602 A.D. - Baudonivia (a nun) composes a biography of St. Radegund, the Christian queen of Spain who helped convert the kingdom to Catholicism. As part of the biography she compares the female saint with a male one as a way of illustrating their equality: “Some were liberated [from demonic possession] at the holy man’s basilica while others were brought to Lady Radegund’s basilica, [because], as they were equal in grace, so were they both shown equal in [power].” 
643 A.D. - In Spain, the Catholic king Chindasuinth passes the Visigothic Code into law and includes equal-rights provisions such as: “A woman shall inherit, equally with her brothers, the property of their father or mother, of their grandparents, on the paternal and the maternal side, as well as of their brothers and sisters.” (Book IV, Title II, Law IX) “Husband and wife shall inherit from each other, respectively, when they leave no relatives nearer than the seventh degree.” (ibid., Law XI) “A [woman] shall have full power to dispose of her entire dowry, in any way she pleases, when she leaves no legitimate children or grandchildren. [And when she does leave legitimate children or grandchildren:] Three fourths of it shall be left, without question, to [them].” (ibid., Title V, Law II)
650 A.D. - St. Sigebert III, one of the kings in France at this time, reforms the French laws so that they treat women more equally. He does this out of an explicit religious conviction that daughters and sons should be equal. He said, “An ancient but unjust custom is observed among us [which] directs that sisters [should] have no part of the paternal estates with their brothers. But I, considering this an injustice and knowing well, my dear children, that the Lord gave you to me [so] that I should love you with equal love, I institute you, my dearest daughter, my legitimate heir with your brothers [in order] that you should have a part no less than theirs in my land and goods.” 
[Cont’d next post]