Femina: feminist history lessons with Janina Ramirez

Programme editor & moderator

Women have held positions of power throughout history. But, aside from the select few, why do we not hear about them? British cultural critic Janina Ramirez takes us on a feminist trip through medieval history. 

With her most recent book Femina (2022) the British cultural historic Janina Ramirez tells a new history of the Middle Ages through the women written out of it. Through a careful examination of the artefacts, writings and possessions, Ramirez reveals a past we might have never imagined: The Middle Ages were not only a bloodthirsty, patriarchal society with Vikings, saints and kings, but also a time when powerful women founded universities, played a crucial role in wars and acted as influential religious leaders.

By giving voice to these influential women who have been silenced by male gatekeepers, she not only highlights unjustly forgotten pioneers, but also demonstrates how easily misconception underpin our historical narratives and influence our contemporary view of the past. What role can historians play in changing contemporary, dominant views on medieval and women’s history?  Janina will enter in conversation with art curator Dr. Jenny Reynaerts, chair of the project Women of the Rijksmuseum

Janina Ramirez is an Oxford lecturer, BBC broadcaster, author and researcher. She has presented and written more than 30 hours of BBC history documentaries on TV and radio.

Jenny Reynaerts is senior curator of 18th– and 19th – century paintings and chair of the project Women of the Rijksmuseum. She published widely on subjects like Dutch academism, landscape painting and romanticism. Reynaerts is founder and board member of the European Society for Nineteenth Century Art and of the collaborative project ‘The Other Half, which is about the share of women in the Dutch art world 1780-1980.


Janina RamirezCultural historian
Jenny ReynaertsSenior art curator and chair of the project Women of the Rijksmuseum
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Cover: Femina- A New History of the Middle Ages, Through the Women Written Out of it