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  • Writer's pictureLogan Quigley

Medieval Jewish Women & Intersectionality (Ifft Decker)

Updated: Feb 24

Why does studying medieval Jewish women matter? The framework of intersectionality, a term coined by the scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, allows us to address how Jewish women’s lived experiences in the Middle Ages differed from those of either Jewish men or of Christian or Muslim women. Dr. Sarah Ifft Decker offers an overview of what we might learn—and how we might reevaluate our understanding of the medieval world—by centering the perspectives of Jewish women. Jewish women were marginalized both as women and as Jews, and these intersecting categories of identity shaped their lives in myriad ways. We can add nuance to our efforts to assess women’s work and women’s religious lives in the Middle Ages if we avoid taking Christian identity for granted and compare Christian women with their Jewish neighbors. Discussions of gender complicate narratives about medieval anti-Judaism and medieval Jewish “Golden Ages.” By including Jewish women in the conversation, we can enrich our understanding of Jewish history, women’s and gender history, and medieval history more broadly.

Sarah Ifft Decker is Assistant Professor of History at Rhodes College. Dr. Ifft Decker is a historian of the medieval western Mediterranean, with a particular focus on intersections between gender and religious difference. She is the author of Jewish Women in the Medieval World, c. 500-1500, a survey and sourcebook, and of a new scholarly monograph, The Fruit of Her Hands: Jewish and Christian Women’s Work in Medieval Catalan Cities. Dr. Ifft Decker also hosts Media-eval: A Medieval Pop Culture Podcast, a popular-audience that addresses popular perceptions of the Middle Ages in films and other media.

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