Beruriah (2nd century CE, Tiberius, Northern Israel), an outstanding scholar in her own right, was the wife of the renowned Mishnaic sage R. Meir and daughter of R. Hananiah ben Teradion. Her wisdom is showcased throughout the Talmud, showing her great insight which particularly benefited her husband.
"The Virgin in the Brothel and Other Anomalies: Character and Context in the Legend of Beruriah" by Rabbi Rachel Adler, Tikkun Vol. 3, No. 6
Using the texts from Talmud and Rashi's damning story Beruriah's story now appears like this:
"Once there was a woman named Beruriah, and she was a great talmudic scholar. She was the daughter of the great Palestinian rabbi Hananyah ben Teradyon, who was martyred by the Romans. Even as a young girl, she far outstripped her brother as a scholar. It was said she had learned three hundred laws from three hundred teachers in one day. She married Rabbi Meir, the miracle worker and great Mishnaic sage.
One time when Rabbi Meir prayed for some robbers to die, Beruriah taught him to pray that their sin would die, that they would repent. She also taught Meir resignation when their two sons died. Loving and gentle as she was with Meir, Beruriah could also be arrogant and biting. She ridiculed a Sadducee, derided an erring student, and made a fool of Rabbi Yose the Galilean when he met her on the road.
Finally, she mocked the sages' dictum that women are easily seduced, and she came to a shameful end. Rabbi Meir set one of his students to seduce her. After long denial she yielded to him. When the plot was revealed, she strangled herself, and Rabbi Meir fled to Babylonia because of the disgrace."
Adler writes: "Beruriah's story is thus imbued with profound ambivalence. On the positive side are Beruriah's brilliance, her special usefulness as a woman who vindicates rabbinic Judaism, and the uniquely appealing depictions of her relationship with her husband. On the negative side, Beruriah is viewed as a threat, a competitor, an arrogant woman contemptuous of men and of rabbinic tradition. This negative pole of the rabbinic attitude toward Beruriah, which culminates in a the tale of her adultery and suicide, is filled with malignant power. It so pervades the legend retroactively that we cannot mention Beruriah's intelligence or accomplishments without adding, if only mentally, 'But she came to a bad end.' This mental reservation brings the iron barrs of the rabbinic context crashing down upon the anomalous woman, indeed upon all women." (pg. 29)
Eishet Chayil - Mishlei (Proverbs) 31
Images from Seder Oneg Shabbos Bentcher
(English translation - Sarah Wolf)