In Praise of Strong Women, by St. Albert the Great

It’s fairly obvious to me that feminist scholarship didn’t work itself as hard as it thought it did, back in the day, and didn’t really scour all sources the way I naively believed it had.

First of all, I’m annoyed that nobody pointed out to me before that Proverbs 10: 10-31 is an acrostic poem. Apparently we can have Hebrew letters galore pointed out in Psalms, but the editors of Bibles I own are too lazy to do it for the Book of Proverbs. Gee, don’t you think the importance of the format change, the way it sets it off, might merit more than some teentsy-weentsy footnote!!!????

What it amounts to is that, yet again, we have a probable example of early poetry by a woman (“King Lemuel’s mother”), and said woman is not properly pointed out and honored. Neither is her work and the point of it. Neither are feminists apparently all that concerned. Bah. In all directions.

But St. Albert points it out. The scholastics point it out. Those allegedly misogynist, evilevilmedieval, crabbed obscurantists point it out, by gum. It’s our enlightened times dropping the ball. Again.

Secondly, apparently St. Albert the Great wrote an entire book (“most useful for preachers”, says the subtitle) with a line by line interpretation this “encomium on strong women”. It apparently goes into all sorts of stuff about the inner life of the Church and so on, which is probably very interesting. Since it’s now online, albeit in Latin, this does make it a lot easier to find and use.

Do you know what I found, just skimming the first chapter?

St. Albert says that “the fourth thing that differentiates men from women” is the “fons sanguinis”. Which is just the classiest way of putting it, especially since he goes on to give its figurative meaning as “piety”. Yes, he goes there. With the Church, no less. He’s not ashamed of something God gave us women, he’s not calling it nasty names. He’s not afraid of the logical consequences of divinely inspired metaphors, either.

So yeah, I’m sure there will be some not-so-feminist stuff in this book, where I’ll roll my eyes or be insulted. But on the whole, I’m thinking St. Albert the Great was one darned classy man, a scholar and a gentlemonk.

UPDATE: Okay, so “fons sanguinis” is in fact what they call all sorts of blood flow in the Bible, in Latin. But it’s still very cool.

UPDATE: Okay, so actually it’s talking about the four things women use to produce offspring, and he’s actually talking about blood supply to babies, not the kind that doesn’t go to babies. Sigh. Skimming is fun, but boy can you get misled. I still hold that this is very nifty. But yeah, I should have known that anything to do with the Church was going to be talking about re/production of Christians.

UPDATE: Hey! Later in the section, he _does_ go there! With Aristotle, too! Whoa.

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