In 1993, the doyenne of women's history, Gerda Lerner, described the creation of feminist consciousness in Europe as beginning at least as early as the seventh century. She insisted that "women's resistance to patriarchal ideas" and "feminist oppositional thought" had a very long history indeed (The Creation of Feminist Consciousness). Lerner was particularly interested in the women's and mixed-sex communities that flourished during the seventh and eighth centuries, but was unable to provide details for the content of their "feminist consciousness," because no specialized studies existed to help her peer into the inner workings of the communities. Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia provides those details, alongside many other glimpses into the intellectual and monastic culture of the time, based on intensive study of a group of eighth-century manuscripts associated with some of the best known personalities of the European Middle Ages, including bishop Boniface of Mainz and his "beloved," abbess Leoba of Tauberbischofsheim.
This is the first study of these "Anglo-Saxon missionaries to Germany" to delve into the details of their intellectual and cultural lives by studying the manuscripts that were produced in their scriptoria and used in their communities. A focus on the books associated with their women's monasteries reveals that what Rosemary Radford Reuther, a leading feminist theologian and historian of Christianity, wrote of later women such as Hildegard of Bingen and Mechthild of Magdeburg can also be said of the religious women of eighth-century Francia: "they reshaped the gender symbolism of [Christian] spiritualities in a way that clearly made them agents of their bown lives ...as well as ...pastoral teachers for their communities, who valued them and carefully preserved their teachings for us to read today. This is surely some part of feminism" (Goddesses and the Divine Feminine, 2005).
Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia by Felice Lifshitz was published by Fordham University Press in May 2014. The ISBN for Religious Women in Early Carolingian Francia is 9780823256877.