Life For Medieval Women Essay

1426 words - 6 pages

Medieval society was completely dominated by men, making a women’s life at the time difficult. Medieval law at the time stated that women could not marry without their parents consent, could not divorce their husbands, could not own property unless widows, could not inherit land if they had surviving brothers, and could own no business with special permission (Trueman, “Medieval Women”). When a woman married a man, he would get any property she owned and she would forfeit any rights she had to him. When the husband dies she would get one third of the land to live on and support herself. Unmarried women who owned land had the same rights as men (Hull). Whenever a woman got into trouble it would be her closest male relative who would appear in court, not the woman herself (Medieval).
Marriage
It was also common for richer families to marry off their daughters sooner than poorer families. This was because poorer families needed as much help doing work as they could. Women had no choice in deciding who they got married to, and once married they would be controlled by their husband (Trueman, “Medieval Women”).
Fashion
Young single women often wore their hair loose, but once married almost all medieval women wore a linen wimple (wrapup) to cover the hair. This was a sign of modesty. Other items worn by medieval women included hair pins, prayer beads, leather purses, woolen knee stockings, and leather shoes (Hull).
Mortality
Childbirth was the leading cause of death among young women. Approximately 20% of women died in childbirth because of poor medical care. Women who were poor had a lifespan of about 40 years (Trueman, “Medieval Women”). A caesarean section was normally only performed if the mother was dead or dying as it was inevitably fatal for her. Midwives would help the mothers give birth. Their skill was formed over many past experiences with childbirth rather than formal training. Midwives also perform emergency baptisms if the baby was ill or dying (Bovey).
Careers
Women had trouble advancing in trade and were usually barred from entering a guild (a group of skilled workers of the same trade). Typical duties would be to take care of the family, work out in the fields, be a servant to rich people, or make some sort of craft like cloths. Here’s a quote from a record in 1461:
"Various people of the weavers' craft in Bristol employ their wives, daughters and maids either to weave at their looms, or to work for someone else at the same craft."
Women would also be paid less than men for doing the same amount of work, an issue that is still around today. For reaping, a peasant man could get 8 pence a day. For the same task, peasant women would get 5 pence. For hay making, men would earn 6 pence a day while women got 4 pence (Trueman, “Medieval Women”). Common jobs for medieval women were shopkeepers, bakers, spinners, alewives, farmers, and silk weavers. There were even some women writers. Women worked more than one job because they got...

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