PART AThe Bookof the City ofLadies


Ty commence leluit Selacite See James Inquel tepemmee dipptie parte pubquoy etmuFigure 15.6 Anonymous, La Cite des Dames de Christine de Pizan, ca. 1410. Illumination on parchment. In this miniature, Christine is picturedin conversation with the allegorical figures of Reason, Rectitude, and Justice. On the right, she assists in building the City of Ladies.more delicate bodies than men, weaker and less able toperform many tasks, so do they have minds that are freerthough, just as I told you, among men and women, someand sharper whenever they apply themselves.’possess better minds than others. …2050″My lady, what are you saying? With all due respect,could you dwell longer on this point, please. CertainlyBook II. 36 Against Those Men Who Claim It Is Not Goodfor Women to Be would never admit this answer is true, unless it isexplained more plainly, for they believe that one normallyFollowing these remarks, I, Christine, spoke, “My lady, Isees that men know more than women do.”realize that women have accomplished many good thingsShe answered, “Do you know why women know less?”and that even if evil women have done evil, it seems to me,”Not unless you tell me, my lady.’nevertheless, that the benefits accrued and still accruing”Without the slightest doubt, it is because they are notbecause of good women-particularly the wise and literaryinvolved in many different things, but stay at home,ones and those educated in the natural science whom Iwhere it is enough for them to run the household, and30mentioned above-outweigh the evil. Therefore, I amthere is nothing which so instructs a reasonable creatureamazed by the opinion of some men who claim that theyas the exercise and experience of many different things.”do not want their daughters, wives, or kinswomen to be”My lady, since they have minds skilled ineducated because their mores’ would be ruined as a result.”conceptualizing and learning, just like men, why don’tShe responded, “Here you can clearly see that not allopinions of men are based on reason and that these men arewomen learn more?”wrong. For it must not be presumed that moresShe replied, “Because, my daughter, the public doesnecessarily grow worse from knowing the moral sciences,not require them to get involved in the affairs which menwhich teach the virtues, indeed, there is not the slightestare commissioned to execute, just as I told you before. Itdoubt that moral education amends and ennobles enough for women to perform the usual duties to whichHow could anyone think or believe that whoever followsthey are ordained. As for judging from experience, since40good teaching or doctrine is the worse for it? Such anone sees that women usually know less than men, thatopinion cannot be expressed or maintained. I do nottherefore their capacity for understanding is less, look atmean that it would be good for a man or a woman tomen who farm the flatlands or who live in the the art of divination or those fields of learningYou will find that in many countries they seem completelywhich are forbidden-for the holy Church did not removesavage because they are so simple-minded. All the same,them from common use without good reason-but itthere is no doubt that Nature provided them with thequalities of body and mind found in the wisest and mostlearned men. All of this stems from a failure to learn,1 Customs .366CHAPTER 15 Adversity and Challenge: The Fourteenth-Century Transition

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