Medieval Woman's Life
spite of the often harsh life in the medieval period which some
women encountered, celebrations, whether religious or personal,
were fairly frequent. Education and employment opportunities did
exist for girls in many cases. Men were defined by their jobs
and their rank in society while medieval women were defined by
their marital status.
They were either Virgins, Wives or Widows. Whether wealthy or
poor, a woman's lot depended on which of these she was.
A girl was an infant until 7 years of age, a child until 14, a
youth until 28 and then an adult. Generally, a girl stayed with
her mother until 7 years of age unless she was an orphaned heiress,
where she may have been removed from her mother and put into 'suitable'
care, although in many cases, mothers were able to apply for guardianship
of their own child. Such an appeal may or may not have been successful
depending on the enormity of the child's holdings.
A great deal of the fortunes
of medieval women depended on her rank in society and her marital
status. Everything from her clothes, diet, work, social and legal
opportunities, dental care to familial obligations, her role in
births, deaths and marriage options, all depended on her financial
and social position at the time of her birth or at the time of
According to legal historian Frederick Maitland, at certain times
a medieval woman:
can hold land, even
by military tenure, can own chattels, make a will, sue and be
sued. A married woman will sometimes appear as her husband's
attorney. A widow will often be the guardian of her own children;
a lady will often be the guardian of the children of her tenants.
On the following pages you
will find a general overview of each of these topics. This is
by no means the complete guide to each occasion, but more of a
springboard, a starting point for further reading.
What the medieval woman did at home
Manners at table and in society
A look at the practices surrounding childbirth
Opportunities for women
Medieval wedding celebrations
Where women worked
The rights of the divorcing woman
Holidays, hobbies, pet-keeping and passtimes
Funerals and death practices
Sex, abortion, contraception and sexual health
This page contains ADULT THEMES!