Research Programs: Fellowships

Period of Performance

1/1/2019 - 12/31/2019

Funding Totals

$60,000.00 (approved)
$60,000.00 (awarded)

'Salvation is Medicine': Gender and the Caregiving Communities of Late Medieval Europe

FAIN: FEL-262690-19

Sara Ritchey
University of Tennessee, Knoxville (Knoxville, TN 37916-3801)

Preparation of a book on medieval women’s medical knowledge and religion-based caregiving practices.

This project examines the healthcare practices and health knowledge circulating in women's caregiving communities in 13th-century northern France, Brabant, and Flanders. Beguines and Cistercian nuns in this region maintained hospices, leprosaria, and monastic infirmaries that were central to the daily care of the sick and dying. Harnessing fragmentary evidence from archival sources, cartularies, hagiographic narratives, and liturgical and devotional manuscripts, it reveals a heretofore unrecognized constellation of feminine knowledge production about the body, health, and dying in late medieval Europe. By contextualizing these fragments within religious women's institutional circuits of care, I argue for the medical signification of late medieval caregiving practices and theories of salvation.

Media Coverage (Media Coverage)
Publication: New Books Network
Date: 12/9/2021
Abstract: podcast interview

ABC Australia Counterpoint (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Amanda Vanstone
Publication: ABC Australia Counterpoint
Date: 11/1/2021

Associated Products

Acts of Care: Recovering Women in Late Medieval Health (Book)
Title: Acts of Care: Recovering Women in Late Medieval Health
Author: Sara Ritchey
Abstract: In Acts of Care, Sara Ritchey recovers women's healthcare work by identifying previously overlooked tools of care: healing prayers, birthing indulgences, medical blessings, liturgical images, and penitential practices. Ritchey demonstrates that women in premodern Europe were both deeply engaged with and highly knowledgeable about health, the body, and therapeutic practices, but their critical role in medieval healthcare has been obscured because scholars have erroneously regarded the evidence of their activities as religious rather than medical. The sources for identifying the scope of medieval women's health knowledge and healthcare practice, Ritchey argues, are not found in academic medical treatises. Rather, she follows fragile traces detectable in liturgy, miracles, poetry, hagiographic narratives, meditations, sacred objects, and the daily behaviors that constituted the world, as well as in testaments and land transactions from hospitals and leprosaria established and staffed by beguines and Cistercian nuns. Through its surprising use of alternate sources, Acts of Care reconstructs the vital caregiving practices of religious women in the southern Low Countries, reconnecting women's therapeutic authority into the everyday world of late medieval healthcare.
Year: 2021
Primary URL: http://
Primary URL Description:
Access Model: Yes Open Access
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9781501753534