Essay : Was women's participation in crusading more than simply as prostitutes or pilgrims?
When the First Crusade was declared, in 1095, by Pope Urban II, he did not expect that women would participate1. However the Crusade had many women responding to his call - nuns, prostitutes and married women that travelled with their husbands2.
The women that didn't go on Crusade and stayed at home played a strong role in supporting the crusade. Women helped to recruit men for the crusade as they were seen to have ‘encouraged their husbands or relations to take a crusade vow’3. If the women were enthusiastic about the crusade then that enthusiasm would transmit to their family and it would also pass onto their friends and then onto other families. The women’s enthusiasm for the crusade was very important as it helped to ‘favourably increase the ranks of crusaders’4.
Women who could not go on crusade themselves could participate in the crusade by providing financial support by giving donations. The women that took a crusading vow from the 13th century onwards could redeem that vow by providing financial support to the crusade5 and this was very importance in funding the crusade, since payment was ‘made on the spot and directly passed on to the local crusaders’6.
Some women that were left at home had the task of looking after their families and property. The mothers and wives ‘were left in charge of the often difficult and hazardous task of administering and defending family estates’7. Women could fight, but only in emergency situations, such as defending their castles and lands, when they were threatened, while their husbands were absent. There were many threats to the women that stayed at home: threat of lands being taken and the threat of rape. Some women were therefore seen to snatch up ‘weapons in defence of their homes when invaders threatened’8. This shows that there were many threats to the women that were left at home, and they could participate to the...