It has been a truism in the history of medieval religious orders that the Cistercians only admitted women late in the twelfth century and then under considerable outside pressure. This view has posited a twelfth-century “Golden Age” when it had been possible for the abbots of the order of Cîteaux to avoid contact with women totally. Only later did the floodgates burst open and a great wave of women wishing to be Cistercians flood over abbots powerless to resist it. This paper reassesses narrative accounts, juridical arguments, and charter evidence to show that such assertions of the absence of any twelfthcentury Cistercian nuns are incorrect. They are based on mistaken notions of how the early Cistercian Order developed, as well as on a biased reading of the evidence, including a double standard for proof of Cistercian status—made much higher for women's houses than for men's. If approached in a gender-neutral way, the evidence shows that abbeys of Cistercian women appeared as early as those for the order's men. Evidence from which it has been argued that nuns were only imitating the Cistercian Order's practices in the twelfth century in fact contains exactly the same language that when used to describe men's houses is deemed to show them to be Cistercian. Formal criteria for incorporation of women's houses in the thirteenth century are irrelevant to a twelfth-century situation in which only gradually did most communities of monks or nuns eventually identified as Cistercian come to be part of the newly developing religious order.