Based On "Becoming Visible: Women In European History" By Bridenthal: In Early Europe, What Are The Large Trends That You See In The Attitudes Toward Women & Their Gradual Decline Of Status?

1785 words - 7 pages

Attitudes towards Women in Medieval and Early EuropeAs any successful tyrant can enlighten you, it is much easier to rule over the illiterate and low self-esteem citizens of the world, than the highly educated independent thinkers comprising humanity. Women have been imprinted by society for ages with the knowledge that they were “physically, spiritually and intellectually inferior to men” (p. 105), as had been taught by Christian theologians and other religious writers. This brain-washing has taken a step further with the “secular legal codes that defined women’s status as dependent upon, and subordinate to, that of their male guardians” (p.105). It’s no wonder that women have taken so long to pull themselves up from society’s lower rungs to bring themselves closer to that of their male counterparts. However, this did not happen by the early European times.

In early medieval times, women “were measured by their two most important social roles; either they were wives and mothers, or they failed or chose not to be wives and mothers”. (p. 124) During this time period, a woman’s role was defined by her activities as a wife or mother. At least that was how the ordinary woman was defined. What made this period different from the future was the fact that if the woman was of royal blood, she was relatively autonomous. Women were queens, property owners and entrepreneurs. Since the men were off at war for much of this time period, the women found themselves freer to do as they pleased. “Restrictions on women’s ability to own and manage property eased somewhat during the early medieval period” (p. 110). However, in the end, this was an age of contradictions. While some “women were disenfranchised, others ruled vast territories in their sons’ and husbands’ names” (p.125). However, women’s rights would soon take another downturn in their constant rocky road of freedom.

As women supplemented the leadership and creative skills that promoted growth in the early European communities, they also saw an erosion of their social and legal rights. As is the case with any rising stars, those in control try to put out their light before they have the opportunity to shine any brighter. “As power and wealth concentrated into fewer, typically male hands, women saw their social and legal rights, their access to institutional support, and their opportunities erode” (p.129). With their men away at war, women began to rule property, and with it all the rights that went along with title. They became responsible for the agricultural administration of the land a well as becoming soldiers in the battlefield. During this time period Europe” lived according to flexible, more informal concepts about what women were and should be” (p....

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