Chattel or Person?

The Status of Women in the Mishnah


Exploring the place of women in the socioeconomic system formulated in the Mishnah, a book of legal rules with a spiritual basis compiled by Jewish sages in second-century Palestine, this study reveals a fundamental ambiguity in the role of women. Both the property and the peers of men, in some circumstances women were considered to possess no powers, rights, or duties in law, and in others were judged morally, practically, and intellectually fit to own property, conduct business, engage in lawsuits, and manage their own personal affairs. Wegner spells out in detail these variations in status, analyzes them, and isolates the factors that account for differential treatment of different classes of women in the private domain and for differential treatment of men and women in the public domain of mishnaic culture, relating her findings to recent developments in feminist analyses of the status of women in patriarchy.
  • Oxford University Press; December 1992
  • ISBN 9780195359862
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Chattel or Person?
  • Author: Judith Romney Wegner
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

"I am thrilled that this book is now available in a reasonably priced paperback. Wegner provides an excellent introduction for reading classical rabbinic texts and a methodology for understanding their nuances in terms of gender."--H. Adelman, Smith College
"We have been waiting for this book. It is valuable and readable."--Allen Howard Podet, Buffalo State College
"Provides a well-organized and easily accessible presentation of scriptural and Mishnaic codes concerning women in Israel. Helpful for use in courses where students want to examine the situation of women in the Hebrew context but have little previous knowledge of the law or customs."--Ginger Hanks-Harwood, Pacific Union College
"The difficulty in using rabbinic materials to assess the place of women in Jewish antiquity has now been significantly alleviated by Judith Wegner's penetrating study of women as portrayed in the Mishnah....Will be extraordinarily valuable to all concerned with the historic roots of women's role in Western religious traditions."--Journal of Religion
"The topic and its results are of enormous value to comprehending more fully the rich intellectual tradition of ancient Judaism, the status of women, and the comparative history of religions. It is essential reading for anyone interested in these topics."--Religious Studies Review