During the early Middle Ages, Europe was undergoing various changes and development in its recovery from the fall of Rome. Medieval civilization developed due to the fall of Rome through the integration of Greco-Roman, Christian and Germanic elements. As medieval society grew and changed, several different communities were established. Three such communities were the feudal community, the monastic community and the intellectual community. Medieval communities exhibited a bias against women which is exemplified by women\'s struggles to improve their status.
There were two feudal ages and the position of the woman changed slightly during these two ages. The first feudal age was the age of feudal lordship (ca. 900-1050). During this time, the woman\'s role was de-emphasized because the societal structure of the time centered on men. The importance placed on fighting prowess in the society meant that women would not be able to hold any kind of official position. It was the opinion of the time that women served two functions: to produce heirs and to manage the estates when their husbands were away. The feudal woman (ca. 900-1050) was also required to be chaste and loyal and was not considered to be emotionally necessary by her husband.
The second feudal age was the age of feudal kingship (ca. 1050-1500). In this age, women achieved a slightly higher status. Although women were still expected to produce heirs and manage their husband\'s manors, they could now be heiresses. When a Lord died and had no sons to inherit his fief, he would leave the fief to his daughter; however, if there were more than one daughter, the land would be divided equally among the daughters. It seems that women were inserted into the feudal system because feudal lords did not want to lose the family\'s land if they had no sons. By controlling the marriage of their daughters, they could increase the family\'s land holdings. This action had enormous political implications. However, it would appear that the feudal community had overlooked the possibility of a Lord having only one daughter, as in the case of Eleanor of Aquitane. Eleanor managed to gain power and influence against the odds in a society whose rules intended to prevent such an occurrence. Thus, the Lords had inadvertently made it possible for women to hold a position of power.
The feudal elite also contributed to medieval misogyny through their interest in courtly love. Initially, one would think that this interest would have helped the status of women, but because this concept put women on a pedestal and made them seem intangible, men grew resentful. Men became frustrated because they were constantly battling for something they could never have. Courtly love told men that their love would always be unfulfilled because women are incapable of love. This belief encouraged men to hate women. The writing of the book of courtly love, which further contributed to this misogyny, tells of the evils of women. In this way, the ideal of courtly love became yet another obstacle for women in feudal society to overcome in their quest for status.
Initially, the role of women in monasticism was one of power. Before 900, female monasticism was at a high point and abbesses exercised the same power as abbots. Monasticism was the only way in which women of medieval times could get a good education. Female monasticism was also very important in terms of church government. Hilda of Whitby, abbess of a double monastery in England, trained six bishops and reconciled the differences between the Roman and British church during her time as abbess. The Abbess of Gandersheim accomplished even more as abbess and had the same authority as a feudal Lord, which was combined with political power that enabled her to sit in the Imperial assembly.
After 900, monastic society entered a decline that was followed by three main reforms -- the Clunaic, the Cistercian, and the Mendicant. Although these reforms enabled male monks to regain their status, they put the nuns at a disadvantage because they outlined a regime of living that would have been dangerous to women. Another factor acting against women in monastic communities was the fact that monks were becoming increasingly worried about celibacy and they saw nuns as