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During this wide-ranging research Shulamith Shahar considers the full query of the various attitudes to girls and their prestige in western Europe among the 12th and the 15th centuries.

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Extra info for The Fourth Estate: A History of Women in the Middle Ages

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56 The dowry to the nunnery was smaller than that which was customarily given to a secular bridegroom in the upper classes, but daughters of the lower classes were unable to pay even these smaller amounts. Many daughters of the nobility and the bourgeoisie never wed not because of their own unwillingness but because their fathers were unable to provide them with the necessary dowry for marriage to a member of their own class. In the same way, some of the sons were also unable to take wives. In order to prevent dispersion of family assets, not all the sons would set up their own families.

Violations of the moral code gradually came to light and the order gained a bad name. In 1137 it was decided to abolish the double monasteries of the Premonstratensian order, and to establish separate nunneries. In the second stage it was decided not to set up new nunneries within the framework of the order, and this resolution was approved by Pope Innocent in in 1198. Some seventy years later, in 1270, the order passed a resolution against accepting nuns even into existing nunneries, and those already residing there were permitted to join other orders.

Those nunneries which owned assets may have held out the promise of economic advantage to the order as a whole, but on the other hand they were often involved in financial difficulties which the monks were not anxious to take over. An additional cause of the reluctance to accept NUNS 37 responsibility for the nunneries was fear of violation of the moral code by priests of the order and supervisors who visited nunneries. Sometimes the various orders showed themselves anxious to avoid creating the opportunity for this phenomenon.

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