Cowinner of the 1982 Berkshire Conference Prize
"This well-documented social study of the status and activities of women in the family and in the church during the Merovingian and the Carolingian periods is a valuable addition both to medieval history and to women's history."—Religious Studies ReviewWomen in Frankish Society is a careful and thorough study of women and their roles in the Merovingian and Carolingian periods of the Middle Ages. During the 5th through 9th centuries, Frankish society transformed from a relatively primitive tribal structure to a more complex hierarchical organization. Suzanne Fonay Wemple sets out to understand the forces at work in expanding and limiting women's sphere of activity and influence during this time. Her goal is to explain the gap between the ideals and laws on one hand and the social reality on the other. What effect did the administrative structures and social stratification in Merovingian society have on equality between the sexes? Did the emergence of the nuclear family and enforcement of monogamy in the Carolingian era enhance or erode the power and status of women?
"Wemple has written an intelligent and interesting book about he transformation of Frankish society from a relatively primitive tribal structure to a more complex hierarchical organization under the Carolinians and has provided valuable insights into women's experiences in a crucial and formative period in Western civilization."—American Historical Review
"The position of women and their roles in Merovingian and Carolingian society are carefully delineated in this thoughtful and well-researched study."—Key Reporter
"Rich and engagingly written."—Library Journal
Wemple examines a wealth of primary sources, such deeds, testaments, formulae, genealogy, ecclesiastical and secular court records, letters, treatises, and poems in order to reveal the enduring German, Roman, and Christian cultural legacies in the Carolingian Empire. She attends to women in secular life and matters of law, economy, marriage, and inheritance, as well as chronicling the changes to women's experiences in religious life, from the waning influence of women in the Frankish church to the rise of female asceticism and monasticism.
Suzanne Fonay Wemple is Professor Emerita of History at Barnard College.