While this sounds quite patronizing by today's standards, there was at least some concern at the time for the men to ensure the protection and support of the women's monastery and to administer the sacraments which could only be done by male priests. Generally the men had more access to education and the politics and commerce of the day were very much a men's world. However, there were also examples of the less admirable side of this arrangement, keeping women in their lower place in church and society.
It is not well known why the beguines lasted as long as they did or why or how they resisted incorporation into the recognized forms of religious life at the time. The beguines, both individually and as a group, were condemned as heretics and suppressed by various popes and councils, beginning in 1312 with the Council of Vienna. The cause of concern was generally either because they were centers of mysticism or because of severe ascetical practices. These condemnations were sometimes withdrawn. In any case, the movement flourished up to the protestant reformation. After that time, the movement continued up to our own day; the last Beguines died in the mid to late 20th century.
As the movement was waning, apostolic religious life was getting its start in various parts of Europe. Women's apostolic religious life is very much in the spiritual tradition of the Beguines. Both sought to live a deep spirituality and to serve the social needs of those about them, to feed the poor, heal the sick and educate children. Both sought to do so outside the strict cloistered life that was required of women religious at the time. They sought ways to balance their internal autonomy with the requirements of external pressures by church and society.
As women's religious life is again facing a turning point, due to internal and external pressures, we may find it helpful to turn to our Beguine sisters for inspiration.