'Mothers, Mystics and Merrymakers : Medieval Women Pilgrims'
- Sarah Hopper , Sutton Publishing 2002.

The medieval woman was both idealised and vilified - seen as both a saint and a temptress. To protect and suppress her, she was expected to stay within the domestic boundaries established by her family and husband. But women did manage to get away in order to undertake pilgrimages, the big event of medieval life. Sarah Hopper's new book reaches past the accepted views of medieval women to reveal them in all their diversity: as saints, wives, mothers, mystics - and enthusiastic souvenir shoppers.

Women pilgrims were a cause of great debate within the Church and society. In theory it was a good thing for women to go to the holy places, but their presence on the road was a disturbance. Danger from robbery or rape was real but most opposition to women pilgrims sprang, not from concern for their safety, but from the prevalent misogyny of the time. Women were portrayed as gossipers, as witches, as husband-murderers, and as latter-day Eves who would seduce and betray men and who were incapable of remaining faithful to their husbands. The fifteenth-century Dominican friar Felix Fabri recorded that such attitudes meant that female pilgrims were denied entry to some holy sites and that, at others, they were forced to sleep in the open while male pilgrims were housed safely in the monasteries.

Mothers, Mystics and Merrymakers is an entertaining and informative look at women of all ages, occupations and classes - from noblewomen to nuns, expectant mothers to sixty-year-old widows - who were able to escape the confines of their existence by going on pilgrimage. Sarah Hopper brings to life the ambiguities, the joys and the perils of being a medieval woman, and shows how pilgrimages could offer them merriment, empowerment, adventure and escapism.

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