Role of Women in Medieval History

Role of Women in Medieval History

Their roles would vary considerably depending on their position in society. Most women would expect to marry, and to run a household, which was an extremely demanding job in medieval times, involving a wide range of complex skills.
Among the upper classes, marriages were often arranged, and pressure could be brought to bear on a girl who was reluctant to accept her parents' choice of suitor. In the Paston letters, written in the 15th century, Margaret Paston describes the trouble she has had persuading her daughter to marry the man she wished her to, she had beaten her to get her to accept her parents' choice. The church was opposed to forced marriages, but when property and wealth were at stake, they sometimes happened.

Among the population in general, it was more usual for young people to choose their own marriage partners from among their peer group. It was usual for young people to socialise in groups, and generally people married in their mid-twenties, so they would have years to get to know their prospective partners before they actually became bethrothed.

Married women were expected to obey their husbands, and their husbands had authority over them. However, marriage for most people was very much an economic partnership, and the wife had an important part to play in producing the foodstuffs, clothing and other household items that were necessary for day to day living. Most people lived by farming, and the wife would generally be in charge of the poultry and the dairy, she would make her own butter and cheese and sell her surplus dairy produce, chickens and eggs at market. Brewing the ale that was drunk instead of water was another job done by women, every village had two or three alehouses that were kept by women.

Peasant women would also work in the fields, and perform most jobs that could also be done by men, apart from ploughing, which seems to have been an exclusively male activity.

A vital task performed by msot women was spinning wool or...

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