Women in medieval England were more involved in commerce than they had been in earlier times. Therefore there is adequate evidence of their writing styles in regard to business writing. Many historians believe that there is no perceivable difference between the letter writing of man and women in regards to a business letter.
To understand the creation between men and women’s letters it is important to note why women were able to write these letters. In medieval England, women got involved in commerce when: their husbands died because widowed women were legally independent, for families not in the uppermost class it was imperative the entire family was involved in work, and women were left in charge when men left, either for education or travel.
There were two styles of medieval letter writing. Type one was structured, business letter, and type two was a looser, informal letter. Type one letters had four parts: the solutio, a formulaic greeting, the narratio, a description of the occasion, the petitio/dispistio, or a request/demand, and the conclusio, or a formulaic ending. Type two letters had no formal structure, but they were far more popular because they were usually about scandalous affairs within a family.
The article proposes the idea that if you were to take a letter written by a man and a letter written by a woman you would not be able to detect a difference if you were not previously informed which letter was which. The idea has been backed by research discussed in the article. I decided to test this hypothesis in class during my presentation.
I used two brief passages, one written by a man and one by a woman, about a girl observing a boy. I chose these two passages because I wanted the situations to be as similar to each other as possible to mimic the article using two pieces that were the same in structure.
These were the passages I chose:
Passage 1: A boy was staring at me. I was quite sure I’d never seen him before. Long and leanly muscular, he dwarfed the molded plastic elementary school chair he was sitting in. Mahogany hair, straight and short. He looked my age, maybe a year older, and he sat with his tailbone against the edge of the chair, his posture aggressively poor, one hand half in a pocket of dark jeans.
Passage 2: Secretly I had been hoping that Sky would ask me. I’ve been looking for him since we went on our drive, one week and a day ago. But he hasn’t been at lunch. I saw him only once, walking in the hall with some other junior guys and a girl who had dyed-black hair that matched her tall black boots.
The class agreed that it was very difficult to detect a difference until they were told which passage was which. Before disclosing which passage was which I asked the class to vote, and the vote was split almost perfectly in half. Once they were aware, it was much easier to tell which passage was which and to detect differences. This supported the article by showing that when looking at writing in which the situations were similar it is very difficult to detect a difference between the writing of men and women.
(Passage one was written by a man and two was written by a woman)