Professor Joel Kraemer, of the University of Chicago, gave the second presentation, on Jewish female literacy, and the chair was taken by Rosamond McKitterick, Professor of Early Medieval European History.
Professor Kraemer drew attention to the numerous papers containing letters between women and members of their families to be found among the vast treasures in the documentary portion of the Cairo Genizah.
There are also appeals and petitions by women to the community and to communal officials, as well as declarations in last wills and testaments.
These precious and unique documents let us hear the female voice directly, unmediated by men.
The letters give us a fine aperçu into the socio-economic and cultural status of women and into the entire family structure.
The papers date mainly from the eleventh to the thirteenth century. Most are in Judaeo-Arabic; some are in Hebrew; and from a later period (sixteenth century) there are letters in Judaeo-Spanish and in Yiddish.
Many are from Old Cairo (Fustat) to other towns in Egypt, especially in the countryside, and from the provinces to Fustat. There are also letters to Cairo from more distant places, among them Aden, Byzantium, India, Seleucia, Tiberias and Tunisia.Return to index
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