Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2016

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/03/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Berman, Constance H.

First Committee Member

Livingstone, Amy

Second Committee Member

Mentzer, Raymond

Third Committee Member

Moore, Michael E.

Fourth Committee Member

Tachau, Katherine


This dissertation examines women's involvement with a Christian religious order—the Premonstratensians—from the foundation of that order in 1120 to the end of the twelfth century. The order's charismatic leader, Norbert of Xanten, attracted many hundreds of members to it, who were intrigued by his call for a return to the principles of the early church. Unlike most previous monastics, who had lived apart from the secular world, the first Premonstratensians—both male and female—served their wider communities in hospitals and through preaching. This dissertation maps out the ways in which, amid the wider religious reform movement which shook twelfth-century western Europe, women's financial contributions, familial links and spiritual vocations were fundamental to the cohesion of this religious organization. Despite its prominence in the Middle Ages, the Premonstratensian Order is most often discussed by modern scholars as a case study of how misogyny limited women's roles in the ever-more institutionalized medieval church. Textbooks on medieval religious history state that the Premonstratensians rejected all involvement with women in 1198—yet this is not the case. By delving into a sourcebase largely ignored by previous scholars because of its scattered and interdisciplinary nature—textual, art historical, and archaeological—this dissertation makes a contribution to the burgeoning scholarship on the religious, social, and economic activities of medieval women while also challenging mainstream histories to reconsider the assumptions on which they are built.


xiii, 437 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 411-437).


Copyright © 2016 Yvonne Kathleen Seale

Available for download on Friday, July 03, 2020

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