Friday, April 20, 2007

Woman scholar in disguise, Krakow, 15th century

Over on the MEDIEV-L e-mail list, Andrew Larsen a few days back told this story about a woman who studied in disguise at a late-medieval university. With his permission I am reproducing some of his remarks here. Thanks to Andrew and Michael Shank both:
Michael Shank discovered a fascinating case of a woman at the university of Krakow who studied there for several years disguised as a man).

She studied at the U. of Krakow for a few years, until two men made a bet that she was actually a woman, and then jumped her and tore her clothes off.

As a girl she had studied at a grammar school. When her parents died, she used her inheritance to enter the university and lived in disguise at one of the student hostels. She was unmasked by a "soldier in the house of a burgher named Kaltherbrig" and his companions. When
unmasked and taken before a judge, she was asked why she had done it. She replied "for the love of learning." She was sent to "the convent", where she became a teacher ('Magistra') and later on abbess. Shank suggests thatthe incident happened somewhere between 1400 and 1420.

For Shank's brief article on this incident, see Michael Shank, "A Female University Student in Late Medieval Krakow", _Signs_ 12 (1987), repr._Sisters and Workers in the Middle Ages_, ed. Judith M. Bennett et al, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1989).



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