Monday, January 23, 2012

Women in Medieval Europe

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This essay will describe the role of women in Medieval society. It will also look at the marriage, childhood, discipline and education of women in that period of history that spanned for many centuries. Also, this thesis will explore the major decisions made by women during that time, and look at the lives of both upper and lower class females. The first topic to be talked about is the lives of wealthy women in the civilisation of Medieval Europe.

The chief function of the upbringing of a girl of noble birth was to be raised in such a manner that she would be ready to get married and produce an heir from an early age. The daughters of important figures in their society were brought up knowing that their fathers were of great significance and brought power and wealth to the family. People would work for him and look up to him. Therefore, the child would also be eminent in a sense, and would have to perfect her manners and behaviour.

The girl’s schooling was not like the teaching that modern society has. Her education consisted of learning about the art of sewing and weaving, learning to decide upon dinner menus and being instructed on how to have control over servants (this was done to prepare for running their own household when older). Rarely was a female child of righteous birth seen hunting or shooting. They were never expected to go into battle or to run a manor.

As stated earlier, the main objective of the upbringing of a rich female was to prepare her for marriage. Girls would often begin to court at the age of six, to a male (about three years older) who would also be of a noble family. This continued until the girl was twelve and it was at that time that the pair got married. The ceremony would be performed at a local church and the woman was expected to bring a dowry into the marriage.

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The lives of pleasant women were much more complicated and different to those of wealthy females for the basic fact that the peasants were poor. There is only a small portion of historical documents on the lives of serfs because they were extremely boring to watch and had very little interesting things occur in their lifetime. Village girls were thought to be ready for a wedding ceremony by the time that they were twelve. Either the family or a priest chose a suitable match for the girl. That person would come from a reputable family. Most weddings were arranged but a number of serfs actually did marry for love. It was said that love eventually grew between those who did have arranged marriages. The couples courted in the seasons of spring and summer because the weather was much warmer.

The peasant girls had very little money, which led to them having a very poor education. Most children could not read or write. The females would learn how to sew, cook, clean, wash, grow vegetables and weave but that was about as educated as they came. Luckily for them, a proper education wasn’t completely vital as none of them expected to grow up to be scholars.

The theories that women were mistreated and weren’t given equal rights were confirmed when historians found out about the penalties given to women who broke the law. Punishments were even handed out to ladies who nagged their husbands! Sometimes females were involved in major crimes such as murder, stealing or treason. Even though a woman might be stealing to feed her starving family, she was still punished heavily. Some punishments handed out for committing major crimes included being hung or burnt at the stake.

In conclusion, this essay has proven that women were heavily mistreated during Medieval times. It also showed that the lives of wealthy and poor women differed in several ways and that all women deserved to have equal rights with men.

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