Female Religious Characters
In the 11th century, many women “escape” society by entering a nunnery. Nuns are educated, avoid the dangers of childbirth, and manage their own affairs. Nuns can even occupy positions of authority, albeit only over other nuns. Nunneries are also convenient places for the free classes to “dump” extra daughters — so much so, that some nunneries are beginning to require a dowry for new nuns, just as though they were being married! While nuns are confined to the cloister, and cannot leave their convent or even meet visitors except through a grill, the enforcement of this law is a bit spotty in 11th century western Europe. Nuns are allowed to travel for “church business,” and this loophole is often used so much that it seems that the cloister is more observed in the breach than in fact! In many ways, the nunnery is an ideal place for women at this time.
At first, female PCs would seem to make ideal religious characters, particularly in the Christian church. They gain bonuses to Greed, Lust, and Selfishness, and so are likely to have a high piety. The problem is that they are unlikely to ever have a high religious rank, and this penalizes them. The only way for a female Christian to gain that rank is to become a nun, and that requires cloistering. Even so, a woman can never be ordained.
A female, Christian religious character can be a nun, with the drawbacks above, or a laywoman. Unlike D&D, FW does not assume that all clerics are clergy — a character can gain religious XP, and therefore religious level, without ever entering the ranks of the clergy. Joan of Arc (to continue to beat that example to death) and many other saints, male and female, are examples of characters with a high religious level that are nonetheless laymen. Of course, such characters have no religious rank at all, but may have more freedom than a nun.
Pagan women have it a bit easier when becoming religious characters. They also struggle to gain religious rank, but that is not because they are excluded from their church — it is because there is no church. Male, pagan religious characters also are likely to have a low religious rank. While pagan religious ceremonies are almost always going to be led by men if there are any present, there are some ceremonies just for women. There is even one that is for both sexes, but can only be led by a woman! Because there is no organized pagan church, religious character concepts for pagans are best used with multiclassing. Religion and magic are intertwined in paganism, so it isn't hard to imagine a multiclassed, female pagan mystic with magic-user and religious levels. Nor is it hard to imagine a warrior who is also a highly observant servant of the gods.