Jun 18 2012 9:40am

First Feminist Author? Man Warns Nuns of Inappropriate Dress

Up for auction next month at Sotheby’s is one of the very first examples of writing intended exclusively for women, the Telegraph UK reports: A 1,300 year-old text titled De Laude Virginitatis (In Praise of Virginity), which was written by Aldhelm, an Anglo-Saxon cleric who thought a certain group of nuns needed instruction on how to dress more modestly.

Aldhelm warns, “If you dress yourself sumptuously and go out in public so as to attract notice, if you rivet the eyes of young men to you and draw the sighs of adolescents after you, and nourish the fires of sexual cannot be excused as if you were of a chaste and modest mind.”

Interestingly, a western medieval manuscript expert points out, "[Aldhelm] expects the nuns to study and understand his sophisticated writings, raising the bar of education for women to the same level of men, becoming the first English feminist author.”

The text, part of a larger collection of rare manuscripts up for auction, is expected to sell for about a million dollars.

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Christopher Morgan
1. cmorgan
Wonder what they would have said about the trailer for this upcoming version of Hitman, I mean, as long as you have your habbit on, leather and torn up fishnets aren't sexy right?

Needless to say it's caused a bit of a ruckus in the Gaming industry.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
Oh my GOODNESS, Chris, I can see why this is causing a ruckus.
I was kinda rooting for the nun assassins, though.
Christopher Morgan
3. cmorgan
I just want to know where she was hiding that Bazooka.
Lege Artis
4. LegeArtis
Well, Aldhelm was certainly a man ahead of his time- just look at that Hitman trailer.
@Chris - That just made my day...thx for the laugh.
Natalie L.
5. Natalie L.
I don't know if I'd say that a text that is, essentially, blaming women for the thoughts/actions/reactions of men is feminist. Just because the author expected the recipients of the letter to be educated doesn't mean he thought they were in any way his equal.
Christopher Morgan
6. cmorgan

I think the fact that the author is expecting women to be educated enough to read is the more important fact. Whether or not he finds them equal to men, he is allowing them an assumption that is leaps and bounds ahead socially. This wasn't a time famous for it's universal education, especially for a church and government that tended to villianize and maginalize the gender.

In a way it's more proto-femenism than actual feminisim as we know it. But "This was one of many proto-feminist writings" is not nearly as exciting as the conclusion "X IS THE FIRST FEMINIST EVA!" So researchers hoping for those sweet, sweet publications and grants, will tend towards the latter.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
7. tnh
Did Aldhelm expect the nuns to read it themselves, or did he expect the priest attached to their convent to read it to them?
Megan Frampton
8. MFrampton
That's a good question, @tnh--if I had to guess, I'd say the priest would have to read it to them. I might have to go googling.
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