Episode 33: Ooh, Crafty Lady


Part two of women as artisans. Join Em and Jesse as they discuss more about the work women did in the Middle Ages, including quite a lot about guilds and textiles, including spinning, embroidery, quilting, and silkworking. Find out which guilds accepted women, how were they treated, to what extent were they involved in local politics, and also some interesting notes about how Norwegian dried cod became popular among West African immigrants to the US.


Recommended text for this episode:

Reassessing the Roles of Women as ‘Makers’ of Medieval Art and Architecture edited by Therese Martin. Leiden: Brill, 2012.

Maryanne Kowaleski and Judith M. Bennett, “Crafts, Gilds, and Women in the Middle Ages: Fifty Years after Marian K. Dale,” Signs 14.2 (Winter 1989): 474–501.

Also recommended:

Marian K. Dale, “The London Silkwomen of the Fifteenth Century,” Economic History Review, 1st ser., 4 (1933) 324–335.

Kay Lacey, “The Production of ‘Narrow Ware’ by Silkwomen in Fourteenth and Fifteenth Century England,” Textile History 18.2 (1987): 187–204.

For the London Guild ordinances discussed in this episode, see Frances Consitt, The London Weavers’ Company (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933), 1: 229–30, 292, 312–14, 320.

1/ We have probably linked to this before, but check out this video for more on the Lord Mayor of London and how to get the job. Of interest, although the city of London has been around since Roman times, the office of mayor has only existed since 1189 (it converted to lord mayor in 1354). Although now lord mayors do not serve multiple consecutive terms, the first-ever mayor of London, Sir Henry FitzAlan (aka Sir Henry fitz Ailwin de Londonstane), served 24 consecutive terms.

2/ For the female Viking warrior, see episode 20, note 11. Also https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/researchers-reaffirm-famed-ancient-viking-warrior-was-biologically-female-180971541/

Boudica (Iceni–i.e. British Celtic–queen in the first century CE who fought the Roman forces in Britain) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boudica

In her introduction to her new translation of Beowulf, Maria Dahvana Headley discusses women as warriors and the ways in which the assumptions of (male) scholars have hidden them.

3/ For more on silkworking and women in guilds in England, see Maryanne Kowaleski and Judith M. Bennett. “Crafts, Gilds, and Women in the Middle Ages: Fifty Years after Marian K. Dale,” Signs 14.2 (Winter 1989): 474–501.

For the London Guild ordinances discussed, see Frances Consitt, The London Weavers’ Company (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933), 1: 229–30, 292, 312–14, 320.

See also all articles referenced above!

4/ For more on the way women’s work is devalued (and on the fact that the entrance of women into a field can devalue it): https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/upshot/as-women-take-over-a-male-dominated-field-the-pay-drops.html

5/ The women/men ratio comes from Kowaleski and Bennett (see above) and Maryanne Kowaleski, “The History of Urban Families in Medieval England,” Journal of Medieval History 14.1 (1988): 47–63, esp. 54–56.

6/ The information on women’s guilds in Europe comes largely from Kowaleski and Bennett (see above).

7/ The information on Ireland (and the value of a needle) is from Jenifer Ní Ghrádaigh, “Mere Embroiderers? Women and Art in Early Medieval Ireland,” in Reassessing the Roles of Women, ed. Martin (Leiden: Brill, 2012): 93–128, esp. 93.

8/ The information on the stole in Girona, Spain is from Pierre Alain Mariaux, “Women in the Making: Early Medieval Signatures and Artists’ Portraits (9th–12th c)” in Reassessing the Roles of Women, ed. Martin (Leiden: Brill, 2012): 393–427, esp. 419.

9/ Gee’s Bend Quilts: https://www.soulsgrowndeep.org/gees-bend-quiltmakers

10/ Alisa LaGamma, “The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design without End,” African Arts 42.1 (Spring 2009): 88–99, esp. 90–91. The artist I mention is El Anatsui (b.1944, Ghanian): https://art21.org/artist/el-anatsui/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw2NyFBhDoARIsAMtHtZ77XuccoWzMzx-3uQgYcZUDdgfPm-qg6ilxCPvdWKtZ0Aczehc3Mn4aAsiZEALw_wcB

You can check out Bisa Butler’s quilts on her Instagram here and at the Art Institute here.

Kente cloth is specifically from Ghana; you can see a cool map of different fabrics of Africa here.

11/ For more on Yinka Shonibare, see episode 11, note 21 and episode 14, note 21. Also Google him! http://yinkashonibare.com/

For more on Dutch Wax Fabric (and Shonibare): https://hyperallergic.com/335472/how-dutch-wax-fabrics-became-a-mainstay-of-african-fashion/

12/ Minnesota, dried fish (pre-lutefisk), and Nigerian immigrants: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/where-to-find-lutefisk

For those not familiar, lutefisk is fish preserved with lye.

Concerning cod.

13/ Women working in wood and stone! See Jenifer Ní Ghrádaigh, “Mere Embroiderers? Women and Art in Early Medieval Ireland,” in Reassessing the Roles of Women, ed. Martin (Leiden: Brill, 2012): 93–128, esp. 99.

Also see: Nancy L. Wicker, “Nimble-Fingered Maidens in Scandinavia: Women as Artists and Patrons,” in Reassessing the Roles of Women, ed. Martin (Leiden: Brill, 2012): 865–902, esp. 867.

14/ 9,000-year-old linen woven with hemp from Çatalhöyük: https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/centuries-old-fabric-found-in-catalhoyuk-61883

Medieval Viking and Early Modern Scandinavian cloth made with hemp: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep02686

The Shakespeare quote is from Twelfth Night I.iii

Episode 32: You Better Work, Beeyatch


Em and Jesse reminisce about libraries they have known, discuss scriptoria and book-making before the printing press, and talk about women who worked in various Medieval professional guilds, how they got there, and what they did with their money.

Annotations and Corrections

Recommended text for this episode: Reassessing the Roles of Women as ‘Makers’ of Medieval Art and Architecture. Edited by Therese Martin. Leiden: Brill, 2012.

1/ Things that are artisanal: bread, cheese, beer, anything made in Brooklyn. . . .

2/ Christmas Book Flood!! Or the Jolabokaflod.

3/ The relationship between Finnish and Hungarian is actually pretty complicated. The Finno-Uralic language family has nine language groupings in it; the major languages are, in order of number of speakers, Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, and then a bunch of minority languages that are spoken by very small groups (tribes, I guess), like Mari, Udmurt, Mordvin, and so on. These languages have some structural, lexicographical, and phonetic similarities, but how they’re actually related is still a subject of debate, as is the question of how they might be related to other Indo-European (or non-Indo-European languages). There are also linguists who claim that these are all just a bunch of weird languages that got stuck together and they’re not actually related, as well as weird theories that propose Finnish is related to Basque (probably the most famous isolate) or Hungarian is related to Etruscan.

4/ The movie was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Good movie, but, uh, wow. Some uncomfortable stuff in there, made more awkward because I was watching it in a kind of art house movie theatre with mostly a bunch of Boomers. . . .

5/ DIY Quarto https://www.folger.edu/publishing-shakespeare/diy-quarto

6/ This site has some examples of different handwriting styles.

Palaeography is the study of historic writing, handwriting systems, etc. We’re discussing medieval Palaeography!

For more on cats, scribes, and their fights, see episode 30 (especially notes 12 and 13), and also this blog: https://medievalfragments.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/paws-pee-and-mice-cats-among-medieval-manuscripts/

A palimpsest is text that’s hidden (invisible to the naked eye) under another text that’s been written over it. Modern technology (ultraviolet light/photography) has made palimpsests visible again without damaging the surface text.

7/ Luttrell Psalter (BL MS 42130): Here’s a link to f157r (that’s the front–recto–of page/leaf 157). Click forward to see amazing and delightful scenes from the Luttrell village, or backwards to see animals and Biblical scenes, and fantastic illuminations.

Here is the link to f. 202v (that’s the back of page/leaf 202): “A knight with the Luttrell arms, mounted, armed, and attended by two women identified by their heraldic surcoats as Agnes Sutton (d. 1340) and Beatrice Le Scrope (the wife and the daughter-in-law of Sir Geoffrey Luttrell)” according to the British Library description. The knight is presumably Sir Geoffrey himself (with his wife and daughter-in-law, yay).

See episode 8 note 24 for all the great info on the Master of Catherine of Cleves (active ca. 1435–60). Here’s the Morgan Library’s website on The Hours of Catherine of Cleves: https://www.themorgan.org/collection/Hours-of-Catherine-of-Cleves

Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry: This was created by the Limbourg Brothers.

The Lindisfarne Gospels: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindisfarne_Gospels (Created by Eadfrith, who became Bishop of Lindisfarne.)

8/ Extensive reading: reading a lot of books. Intensive reading: reading one book really closely (many people read their bible this way, whatever their religion is).

9/Hildegard’s Ordo Virtutum was discussed in episode 6 (see notes 17 and 23).

10/ For more on women as illuminators, see Christine Havice, “Women and the Production of Art in the Middle Ages,” in Double Vision: Perspectives on Gender and the Visual Arts. Edited by Natalie Harris Bluestone. Associated University Presses, 1995. Pages 67–94.

Reassessing the Roles of Women as ‘Makers’ of Medieval Art and Architecture, edited by Therese Martin. Leiden: Brill, 2012.

For more on the nuns of St Katharine’s in Nuremberg, see Jane Carroll, “Subversive Obedience: Images of Spiritual Reform by and for Fifteenth-Century Nuns,” in Reassessing the Roles, ed. Martin pp. 705–737. (Full cite of Martin’s above.)

For more on Donella, see Loretta Vandi, “‘The Woman with the Flower.’ Social and Artistic Identity in Medieval Italy,” in Gesta 39.1 (2000): 73–77.

For more on Guda see Pierre Alain Mariaux, “Women in the making: Early Medieval Signatures and Artists’ Portraits (9th–12th c.),” in Reassessing the Roles, ed. Martin, pp. 393–427, esp. 413–415. (Full cite of Martin’s text above.)

11/ Not sure what I referring to here, so instead here’s a link to a really important article from 1971 on feminist art history, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists” by Linda Nochlin:

12/ Antonia Pulci (1452/54–1501) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonia_Tanini_Pulci

Plautilla Nelli’s Last Supper: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/plautilla-nelli-last-supper

13/ Meredith Parsons Lillich, “Gothic Glaziers: Monks, Jews, Taxpayers, Bretons, Women,” in Journal of Glass Studies 27 (1985): 72–92.

Christine Hediger, “Female Donors of Medieval Stained-Glass Windows,” in Investigations in Medieval Stained Glass Materials, Methods, and Expressions edited by Elizabeth Carson Pastan and Brigitte Kurmann-Schwarz (Leiden: Brill, 2019): 239–250 (esp. 241, for servant story and prostitutes story, and 247 for the “restored” male heads story).

14/ Vigil Raber (1490–1552) ran his studio with his wife, who continued to run the studio after his death. See M.A. Katrizky, “What Did Vigil Raber’s Stage Really Look Like?,” in Vigil Raber: Zur 450 Wiederkehr seines Todesjahres eds. Michael Gebhardt and Max Siller (Innsbruck: Universitaetsverlag Wagner, 2004): 85–116 (p. 85).

See episode 6 note 33 too.

15/ For those curious, this site has a breakdown of percentage male/female in different careers worldwide (excluding China and India for which data were not available), using data from the International Labour Organization. An example of a career with a 12% male participation rate is personal care worker (i.e., health care assistant–I think in the US we would call this an LPN type of position). A career with 10% female participation is commissioned armed forces officer. A similar table from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics gives the figures for the US in 2020. One career here that has 11.8% women in it is electrical and electronics engineers. A career that is largely female is preschool and kindergarten teachers–only 1.2% male. Interestingly, a solid 25% of private detectives are female, and there are 800,000 of them in the country.

16/ Actual city of London: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrObZ_HZZUc

17/ When I say it was less likely that women would paint people as opposed to still lifes, I meant during the Renaissance. Obviously women take nude drawing classes all the time now without much comment. (I have, anyway.)–Em