World Wide Web Reviews

Medieval Women Websites

by Cynthia Ho, Amelia Washburn, and Tim Gauthier

[Eds. note: This ongoing feature in Feminist Collections suggests and evaluates key websites on particular topics. This review is from the Spring 1998 issue.]

It might seem ironic that one of the first academic subjects in the humanities whose practitioners showed a keen interest in computers, multimedia, and the Web was medieval studies. Actually, it is congruous, since the encyclopedic impulse and the interest in textual mutability are both central medieval concerns. Now, the number of sites devoted to medieval studies in general, and to medieval women in particular, is stunning. The majority of the sites do not necessarily provide information missing from a good library, but they nevertheless provide a needed service to the general, interested public and to the academic community. The study of medieval women has been a fully legitimized academic subject for only the last ten years, so many libraries do not have the primary or secondary materials that have recently become available in abundance. The following divisions I use to differentiate sites are not discrete because many sites significantly overlap.

Although notable information exists on the Web concerning women in other cultures contemporary with the European Middle Ages, the discussion below is limited to European women.


Medieval Women
Developed/maintained by: Martin Irvine, Deborah Everhart, Stefan Zimmers
Copyright: 1997

Women Writers of the Middle Ages
Maintained by: Catherine Innes-Parker
Last updated: 1997

Women Writers of the Middle Ages
URL: edfem.html
Developed/maintained by: Bonnie Duncan, English Department, Millersville University
Last updated: August 12, 1997

The Labyrinth at Georgetown was the first important and comprehensive medieval website, highly promoted in the early 1990's at academic meetings by its developers, Martin Irvine and Deborah Everhart. The "Medieval Women" title page, linked through Labyrinth's main page, organizes links in four categories: Individual Lives and Works of Medieval Women; Women Rulers and Creators; General Resources; and Bibliographies. In part, the site reflects the contents of Everhart's course by the same name, but in a larger sense it indicates the important general categories of web-knowledge concerning medieval women. Within each of the groups, the links are selective and scholarly. Innes-Parker's page also serves as a resource for a course; whereas the Labyrinth page is one of the oldest, Innes-Parker's is the most extensive. Although it is a full website with one of the largest funds of links to various other sites, its straightforward design makes it easy to use. The headings under which material is listed are the following: Education and Literacy, Woman as Image, Daily Life, Women Religious, Women and Power, and General Resources. "Women Writers" is one example of Bonnie Duncan's numerous projects connected with computers, pedagogy, scholarship, and medieval literature. This well- organized site has four primary categories: Secular Women Writers, Saints and Women in Religious Vocations, Materials Concerning Women, and Secondary Hypertexts on general medieval topics. The approach of this site varies from the previous two, which provide only links; here, the first two sections are organized around original essays or source documents with extensive links to other sites. Although all the essays are by students at Millersville University, the work is well- documented, and links to hypertexts and other sources are extensive. The last two sections offer a breadth of links and connections - its collection of links to electronic texts, arranged by category, is especially large and helpful.


Hildegard of Bingen websites

The Hildegard of Bingen Resource Page
Maintained by: Bison Publishing

The Hildegard of Bingen Page
Developed by: Bill Davis
Maintained by: Trinity College of Vermont
Last updated: July 23, 1997

The Life and Works of Hildegard von Bingen
Created by: Kristina Lerman
Last updated: Feb. 12, 1998

Numerous smaller sites dedicate themselves to one specific woman or topic. I take as an example the sites for Hildegard, which reflect three different agendas: the first is devotional, presenting the timelessness of Hildegard and her teaching; the second and third are academic, focusing on texts and biography, respectively. All three excellent sites illustrate the plethora of specific information that exists for the study of individual medieval women. Most are easily accessed through the reference sites listed earlier.

Experimental and developing specific sites

The Matrix Site

Developed by: Mary McLaughlin and other medievalists
Maintained by: Katherine Gill and Lisa Bitel, eds., Marilyn Dunn, Managing ed., and Editorial Board

Sybils! An Interactive Exploration of Women in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
Developed/maintained by: McMaster Working Group on the Middle Ages and Renaissance, McMaster University
Last updated: September 1997

As exciting as the offerings are on the Web now, the next generation of medieval women's sites is moving in a new direction, proposing materials that cannot be found in a library collection. This relocates feminist study into a new level of primary source investigation. Matrix is a developing, refereed site specific to the resources for the study of women's religious communities 500- 1500. Eventually it will hold graphics, maps of abbeys (interior floor plans), architectural features of women's religious communities, in-depth profiles, collections of documents online, bibliographies, glossaries, and online articles. While the information now available is slim, the projected impact of this project when completed is immense. "Sybils!" is a program developed for teaching about women of the Middle Ages using the collection at the McMaster University library related to these topics.


Medieval Feminist Index: Scholarship on Women, Sexuality, and Gender
Developed/maintained by: Margaret Schaus. Numerous other individuals work on the Web pages, and an advisory board consists of scholars from universities around the country.
Last updated: [Feb.28, 1998]

Selected Sources in Women's History, 1400-1700 C.E.
Maintained by: Margaret Schaus
Last updated: June 27, 1997 ?

The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship began with the Medieval Feminist Newsletter, which has rapidly expanded into a number of projects including the online bibliography. A scholarly index covering more than three hundred journals and essay collections dealing with gender and sexuality, this database includes some twenty-two hundred records with more than one hundred added each month. The years covered include 450 C.E. to 1500 C.E., with regional listings dealing with Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The index includes, and is expanding to add, publications in English, French, German, and Spanish, and the developers hope to include Italian in the future. This site is extremely useful for research purposes since the database can be searched by author, geographical location, subject, title, or other criteria. Schaus's "Selected Sources in Women's History" is an excellent, easy-to-use index site for finding printed material on medieval women. The hyperlinked table of contents is divided into Biographical Sources, Women's Writings, Women's Achievements in Various Fields, and Women's History.

This short review only surfs the surface; good luck searching for your chosen topic.

[Cynthia Ho, Ph.D., is assistant professor of Literature and Language at University of North Carolina, Asheville, where she teaches courses in European and Japanese women of the Middle Ages. Amelia Washburn and Tim Gauthier are members of her seminar.]

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