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The Lives of Others

Discarded History

Women are conspicuously absent from many a historical record, but the Genizah has preserved hundreds of documents that illuminate women’s lives and experiences. They enter the historical record in the legal documents that protected and defined their rights in marriage – thousands of these contracts are preserved on scraps of paper and parchment. Their letters have also been preserved: windows into women’s cares and concerns, their involvement in commercial enterprises, occasional scandals, and domestic disputes. These documents may challenge our expectations over the role of women in the medieval world.