Documents/Books on the View of Women


I did not know where I should post this.
I currently in a class called Psychology of Gender. It is a very liberal. I have to do a project with the media and I decided to look into the documents/books on the Catholic Faith about the view of Women. I am trying to find anything about the view of women in the Church dated in the 1950s or before. I have letters and documents in the 1960s including Blessed John Paul II’s letter to women. I cannot find anything else before this time. Is there anything? I am trying to see if there was a change in the years on this or if there were differences.

Thank You and God Bless!

Se here: for an interesting article. However it is not in the time frame you requested.

I also suggest you find out how badly the feminist anarchist/liberal groups have abused women, creating a totally Marxist system of class warfare. This means, during the late 1960s and 1970s to date, Men were called the Eternal Enemy and Women were called the Eternal Victims - of men.

God bless,


I found one:

Role of woman in marriage.


Although, at that time we didn’t have all the problems andgender confusion we do today, Kids, and adults, all knew which bathroom to use. :slight_smile:

The gender “problems” we have today were invented.


Thank you. That book is going in my “to buy” list. More evidence that the media does NOT reflect America anymore. It has, in most cases, become our enemy.


Indeed. I am just not really feelin’ that ‘Dominant Male Patriarchy’ thang.

Are you?

I don’t think these men did either-

If you’re trying to refute the opinion that the Church didn’t hold women in high regard or oppressed them, stay off the following sites that were linked in previous posts such as,Catholic Modesty, or Catholic Planet. Plus, I believe that it is against forum rules to post links to Tradition in Action or Catholic Modesty since they hold questionable views on the validity of the Mass in OF and Catholic Planet is a clearinghouse for Ron Conte’s opinions, not authentic Catholic teaching.

I am sure you will find, with a little research that Atheists, Pagans and every other society in the world on every other continent treated women soooooo much better than Catholics. Not!!

I’ve been making this timeline as a resource for showing the positive impact of Catholicism on women’s equality. The timeline is not complete yet, and there are some gaps in what I’m presenting here compared to what I’ve got in my archives. But I think this information is helpful to show that the Church teaches the dignity of women and always has. Use it in your discussions with feminists and antimedievalists.

Footnotes appear at the end.

First century - Women’s equality as a doctrine - The place of women in Catholic history begins with Jesus, whose example toward women is exemplary of the idea that men and women are equals in the eyes of God. In fact that was one of His explicit teachings: “For whoever does the will of [the Father] is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Mark 3:35

First century - Women in leadership - Early female missionaries include St. Mary Magdalene, who the Church calls the apostle to the Apostles; Priscilla, who with her husband Aquila taught Apollos the associate of the Apostle Paul (Acts 18:26); and Pheobe, the deaconess in Rome who is mentioned in Romans 16:1. All of these women are examples of the Church’s longtime support for women to assist in Christian ministry.

First century - Women in education - In Luke 10:38-42 Jesus gave an example of educating women that was a model for later efforts in the field of women’s education. In the same passage He also implied that a woman’s highest vocation does not consist in domestic concerns, and this message has been a source of inspiration for women seeking to rectify unfair social conditions.

203 A.D. - Women’s equality as a doctrine - In Stromateis, Book 4, Chapter 8, Clement of Alexandria taught that women were equal to men spiritually, but unequal physically, and thus explained their different social status. The chapter is called “On [the] Equality and Inequality of the Sexes.”

222 A.D. - Women in leadership - Julia Mamaea appears to have been educated in the Christian religion and was the mother of Emperor Alexander Severus. [1] While he was a minor she ruled the Roman empire, and her face appears on coins from the era.

254 A.D. - Women in education - Origen dies in this year. As head of the School of Alexandria, Origen had offered classes to both men and women not only in Scriptural study, but in philosophy, science, and other secular subjects. [2]

330 A.D. - Women in leadership - St. Helen dies in this year. As empress of Rome and mother of Constantine the Great, she set the standard of how a Christian queen should act. She is most famous for assisting in the conversion of her son, Emperor Constantine, the first Emperor to make Christianity a State religion, and for her pilgrimages to the holy land, where, in an early example of female archeological leadership, she headed up a successful expedition to find and uncover the cross on which Jesus died. [3]

It should also be noted that in 377 A.D., Ambrose of Milan promoted imitation of female leadership by citing the example of women leaders in the Old Testament: “[Deborah] showed that [women] have no need of the help of a man. … A widow, she governs the people. A widow, she chooses generals. A widow, she determines wars and orders triumphs. … It is not sex, but valor which makes strong.” [4]

407 A.D. - Women’s equality as a doctrine - St. John Chrysostom taught that the woman is fully equal to the man: “[She is] of his kind, with the same properties as himself, of equal esteem, in no way inferior to him.” [5] However, a wife’s subjection to her husband is, according to Chrysostom, a result of sin, and a remedy for feminine frailty.

414 A.D. - Women in leadership - Saint Pulcheria is made empress over the Byzantine empire while her little brother Emperor Theodosius is a minor. [6] As sole reigning monarch, she organizes philanthropic outreaches and promotes devotion to the Blessed Mother, and works to persuade her empire that her war with the Persian empire is a holy war for Christian principles.

[cont’d next post]

[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. [7] 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. [8] 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. [9] 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. [10] 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. [11]

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. [12]

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].” [13]

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.” [14]

[Cont’d next post]

[Cont’d from last post]

657 A.D. - Whitby Abbey in England is founded in this year by St. Hilda of Whitby. A religious community of men and women lived here in separate houses, and were presided over by a woman. The abbey housed great educational facilities including a vast library and teachers commissioned for the instruction of both men and women in Christian doctrine. Its female managers were famed for their wisdom and were advisors to many kings and nobles. Other important abbeys managed by women include Faremoutiers-en-Brie, founded by St. Burgundofara in 617 A.D., Nivelle, founded by St. Itta in 640 A.D, and Chelle, founded by Queen St. Balthild of France before 658 A.D.

680 A.D. - Women in leadership - Queen St. Balthild of France dies in this year. A former slave girl who married King Clovis II, she gradually became queen over larger and larger parts of France while he united the kingdom. She founded the famous abbey of Chelle and fought to abolish slavery throughout her lands. “In addition, she ordered that many [slaves] should be ransomed, paying for many of them herself.” (Vita Sanctae Bathildis)

731 A.D. - Women in education - The Venerable Bede reports that noble-women were often sent to convent schools to receive an education even if they did not intend to pursue the religious life. [15] St. Aldhelm praised the curriculum of these convent schools for including grammar, poetry, and Scriptural study. [16] The biography of Sts. Herlinda and Renilda also demonstrates that women in these convent schools could be trained in art and music. [17]

782 A.D. - Women in leadership - St. Leoba dies in this year. A missionary woman and associate of St. Boniface, she assisted in the effort to bring Christianity to the Germans and is credited with numerous miracles. [18] She was also very highly educated and her German convent was influential in the middle ages.

782 A.D. - Women in education - St. Alcuin of York reforms the court school of Charlemagne and establishes it as a co-educational college of liberal arts that is known to history as the Palace Academy of Aachen. Charlemagne and other nobles are praised by their contemporaries for sending their daughters as well as their sons to be educated under St. Alcuin. [19]

843 A.D. - Women in leadership - Dhuoda, a duchess in France, composed the Liber Manualis before this year. She wrote her book as a resource for her sons to instruct them in the way to rule a nation and to live a life of piety. [20] The book reveals the influence that noblewomen could have in politics and the high standard of education that was available to them.

882 A.D. - Women in education - Hincmar of Reims dies in this year. In his De Ecclesiis Et Capellis, he mentions schools for girls (puellulae) in his discussion of the co-educational facilities that were housed in some convents and monasteries. He considered co-ed facilities dangerous to the morals of young men and wished the schools for girls to be separated from the schools for boys. [21]

970 A.D. - Women in leadership - Queen Aelfthryth of England, along with several nuns and abbesses, attends the council of Winchester and assists in the reformation of monastic policy. Part of the reform was to make the queen “the protectress and fearless guardian of the communities of nuns; so that [the king] helping the men and his consort helping the women there should be no cause for any breath of scandal.” [22]

1137 A.D. - Women’s equality as a doctrine - Peter Abelard sends a letter to some nuns commenting on extracts of St. Jerome in which he praises the female sex, with the hope that these sentiments be received as the right mindset to have about women: “I know that I am often much criticized because I sometimes write to women and seem to prefer the more fragile sex to the stronger.” “[But] Aquila and Priscilla educate[d] Apollo, an apostolic man learned in the law, in the way of the lord. If to be taught by a woman was not shameful to an apostle, why should it be [shameful] to me afterwards to teach men and women?” “This and its like I have touched on briefly, to ensure that you [women] should not be penalized because of your sex.” [23]

1274 A.D. - St. Bonaventure said: “In the first [chapter] of Genesis [it is written]: God created man to His own image and likeness, male and female did He create them. If, therefore, the woman was created to the image of God and to equality with the man—just as her formation from [his] side hints at— …[then it follows that] in man and woman there is equally found the reckoning of [God’s] image.” [24]

[End. Footnotes next post.]


[1] See Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book VI, Chapter 21
[2] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 6, Chapter 8, Paragraph 1 mentions that Origen taught both men and women. His writings, which cover vast fields of topics and filled hundreds of volumes before his death, demonstrate that what he taught at his school covered a tremendous variety of subject matter.
[3] Rufinus, Ecclesiastical History, Book 10, Chapters 7-8
[4] Ambrose, Concerning Widows, Chapter 8
[5] Homily 15.1-3 on Genesis 2:20ff
[6] Socrates Scholasticus. Ecclesiastical History, Book IX
[7] Vita Genovefa, Section III, Paragraphs 10-12. As translated in McNamara, Sainted Women of the Dark Ages, 1992. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. p. 17-37
[8] cf. St. Gregory the Great, Dialogues, Book II, Chapters 33-34
[9] Schulenburg, Jane. Forgetful of their Sex: Female Sanctity and Society, ca. 500-1100. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. p. 96
[10] Waldebert, Rule of a Certain Father to the Virgins, Paragraph 24. Written before 668 A.D.
[11] Wemple, Suzanne. Women in Frankish Society: Marriage and the Cloister, 500 to 900. 1981. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. Chapter 8, footnotes 20, 21
[12] Schulenburg, Jane. Forgetful of their Sex: Female Sanctity and Society, ca. 500-1100. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. p. 320
[13] As quoted in McNamara, Sainted Women of the Dark Ages, 1992. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. p. 105
[14] Ripuarian Law, Book 2:12, as it appears in McNamara, Sainted Women of the Dark Ages, 1992. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. p. 185
[15] Bede. Ecclesiastical History of England. Book III, Chapter VIII
[16] Schulenburg, Jane. Forgetful of their Sex: Female Sanctity and Society, ca. 500-1100. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. p. 98-99
[17] ibid. p. 100-101
[18] The Life of Leoba, as translated in Talbot, C.H. The Anglo-Saxon Missionaries in Germany. London and New York: Sheed and Ward, 1954
[19] Einhard. Life of Charlemagne. Written before 840 A.D. Chapter 19
[20] Thiebaux, Marcelle. Dhuoda: Handbook for her Warrior Son. Cambridge Medieval Classics 8. Cambridge, 1998
[21] Contreni, John J. The Pursuit of Knowledge in Carolingian Europe. Ohio State Press, p. 114
[22] Saint Aethelwold, Regularis Concordia: The Monastic Agreement of the Monks and Nuns of the English Nation, ed. Thomas Symons, London, 1953, pp. 1-2, as quoted in Schulenburg, Jane. Forgetful of their Sex: Female Sanctity and Society, ca. 500-1100. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. p. 110
[23] Jerome, Letter to Principia, 397 A.D., quoted in Abelard, Letter 9, 1137 A.D.
[24] Commentary on the Four Books of Sentences, Book II, Commentary on Distinction XVI, Question 2, “Whether the image [of God] is more principally in the male than in the female.”

If your post was directed at my cautioning the use of those links, I will say that those sites do nothing but reinforce the idea of the Church holding women as lesser than men. Not exactly the thing you want to use as a resource if you are wanting to show that the Church actually improved the status of women.

You are aware that Catholic Planet is not faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and is nothing more than an odd assortment of documents interspersed with the website owner’s personal opinions?

I’ve also seen this book recommended on the subject, though I haven’t read it: “Women and Spiritual Equality in the Christian Tradition.”

In addition to my previous posts, note that the article on “Women” in the Catholic Encyclopedia explains the Catholic perspective on women from a pre-1950s viewpoint. It was published in 1912.

Some of its awesome comments include:

“The limitation of [women’s] freedom…necessarily calls forth the effort to do away with the obstructing barriers.”

“[Woman has] complete equality in moral value and position as compared with man before the Creator. It is, therefore, not permissible to take one sex as the one absolutely perfect and as the standard of value for the other.”

“On account of the moral equality of the sexes the moral law for man and woman must also be the same. To assume a lax morality for the man and a rigid one for the woman is an oppressive injustice even from the point of view of common sense. Woman’s work is also in itself of equal value with that of a man, as the work performed by both is ennobled by the same human dignity.”

“[Women’s] peculiar influence is to extend from the home over State and Church. This was maintained at the beginning of the modern era by the Spanish Humanist, Louis Vives, in his work “De institutione feminae christian” (1523); and was brought out still more emphatically, in terms corresponding to the needs of his day, by Bishop Fenelon in his pioneer work “Education des filles” (1687).”

“it is only by the restoration of Christianity in society that the rightful and natural relations of man and woman can be once more restored. This Christian reform of society, however, cannot be expected from the radical woman movement, notwithstanding its valuable services for social reform. … It certainly attained great results in its efforts for the economic elevation of woman, for the reform of the education of women, and for the protection of morality in the first half of the nineteenth century, and has attained still more since 1848 in England, North America, and Germany. The names of Jessie Boucherett, Elizabeth Fry, Mary Carpenter, Florence Nightingale, Lady Aberdeen, Mrs. Paterson, Octavia Hill, Elizabeth Blackwell, Josephine Butler, and others in England, and the names of Luise Otto, Luise Buchner, Maria Calm, Jeannette Schwerin, Auguste Schmidt, Helene Lange, Katharina Scheven, etc., in Germany, are always mentioned with grateful respect.”

“modern times demand more than ever the direct participation of woman in public life at those points where she should represent the special interests of women on account of her motherly influence or of her industrial independence. Thus female officials are necessary in the women’s departments of factories, official labor bureaux, hospitals, and prisons. Experience proves that female officials are also required for the protection of female honor.”

Re: Catholic women’s rights movements, the Catholic Encyclopedia lists these: “Ligues des femmes chretiennes” were formed in Belgium in 1893; in France “Le feminisme chretien” and “L’action sociale des femmes” were founded in 1895, after the international review, “La femme contemporaine”, had been established in 1893. In Germany the “Katholisches Frauenbund” was founded in 1904, and the “Katholische Reichs-Frauenorganisation” was established in Austria in 1907, while a woman’s society was established in Italy in 1909. In 1910 the “Katholisches Frauen-Weltbund” (International Association of Catholic Women) was established at Brussels on the insistent urging of the “Ligue patriotique des Francaises”. Thus an international Catholic women’s association exists today, in opposition to the international liberal women’s association and the international Social-Democratic union. The Catholic society competes with these others in seeking to bring about a social reform for the benefit of women in accordance with the principles of the Church."

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