Advice Concerning Pregnancy and Health in Late Medieval Europe: Peasant Women’s Wisdom in The Distaff Gospels Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • This paper explores an area which has proven difficult for scholars to penetrate: women's popular wisdom concerning medical matters in the later medieval period. Contextualized within an examination of medieval medical texts both by and about women, our discussion focuses on a later 15th-century French work, The Distaff Gospels. This text, published recently in English for the first time since 1510, consists of more than 200 pieces of advice or "gospels," ostensibly conveyed to one another by a group of women who met together during the long winter evenings to spin. A significant portion of the advice might be considered "medical" in nature; it is grouped into two broad categories: pregnancy and health. We conclude that although our text is male mediated, it provides a reliable and valuable guide to peasant women's medical lore during this period.

publication date

  • October 2007