Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

MARGARET GIGGS CLEMENT
(1505-1570)

Britain
Classical Scholar

Margaret Giggs Clement, regarded as an exceptionally knowledgeable woman, clearly profited from the training in humanist studies that her legal guardian, Sir Thomas More ( 1478-1535), had provided for her. Giggs's special talents lay in the fields of mathematics and medicine. Her unusual choice to devote herself to the study of medicine has earned Giggs an important place in the history of women. Giggs also demonstrated such an astonishing command of Greek that the humanist Juan Luis Vivés ( 1492-1540) praised her skill.

More's decision to provide training in humanist studies for all his children--Margaret More Roper, her sisters Elizabeth and Cecily, her brother John, and others attached to the More household, such as More's adopted daughter Margaret Giggs Clement--was truly unique. The students' classical education included instruction in grammar, rhetoric, and logic. The children learned to master Greek and Latin. Other subjects included theology, philosophy, astronomy, and medicine. To achieve his educational aim, More employed numerous tutors, including John Clement, the Greek scholar and physician, and Nicholas Kratzer, the astronomer, both of whom served at the Tudor court of King Henry VIII of England (ruled 1509-1547).

Whether or not women should receive such training was frequently debated at the time More chose to provide his children, irrespective of gender, with a humanist education. In a letter written to William Gonnell, one of his children's tutors, More states his reasons for extending instruction on "humane letters and liberal studies" to his daughters. More argued for the practical uses of such an education. An educated woman would be pious, charitable, and humble. In the ideal union More envisioned, her husband would profit from her company, whereas her children would benefit from the learned guidance and instruction provided by their mother. Through his daughters' education, Sir Thomas More hoped to effect these goals. In her

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