Periods of European History that Demonstrated Changing Attitudes Towards the Education of Women


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Periods of European History that Demonstrated Changing Attitudes Towards the Education of Women




Throughout the early portion of modern European history, women were
never encouraged to undertake any significant education. Though the problem
lessened over time, it was still a strong societal force. There were three
major time periods when substantial changes took place in attitudes towards
women's education -- the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Seventeenth
and the early Eighteenth centuries.

The earliest time period, the Renaissance, may have actually been the
most liberal time period for women's education. The church was the only
force at this time that discouraged education. In Erasmus's book "The
Abbot and the Learned Lady", The church's position on this issue says that
education does not protect the chastity that was necessary for women. There
were still, however, a certainty that women could and should be educated.
For example, in Castiglione's book "The Courtier", it is stated that women
are capable of everything that men are. Also, Roger Ascham has described
his female student(the future Queen Elizabeth I) as equally bright as any
other male student of his. Furthermore, in a letter by the poet Louise
Labe`, she states a need for women to "raise their head above their
spindles" and take up studying.

The next age, the Reformation and the catholic Reformation, saw a
dramatic and conservative change toward the attitudes of education for
women. Martin Luther, a leader of the Reformation, was quoted as saying
that God made men with broad shoulders to do all the intelligent, and women
with broad hips to do the "sitting" and housework. Agreeing with Martin
Luther, was Emond Auger, a French Jesuit, who said "there is no need for
women to take time out from their work and read the Old and New Testament"
and also that "Women must be silent in church".

The third age of early modern European history is the seventeenth and
early eighteenth centuries, in which men at large were still strongly
against the education of women, but they had reached a compromise to some
extent. They allowed women to be educated on a minor level, as Mme. de
Maintenon(wife of Louis XIV) says "Educate your middle-class girls in the
middle-class way, but don't embellish their minds", but a women could never
go beyond that. It seemed also that some men had conflicting view points
on this issue. In Moliere's play "The Learned Ladies", educated women are

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"shown" as unreasoning with their "reason" and above all "no work get done".
While Sir Josiah Child says in "A New Discourse of Trade", that it is
often important for a family that a women learns her husbands trade, so she
may help the family continue in his death.

The attitudes of education for women has evolved in general towards
more and more equality for women, as we can see by the standards today.
However, as we can see this issue was a long- debated one in which, more
often than not, women were ultimately evaluated as useless when educated.


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