Women in the Middle Ages

WHAT ROLES WERE AVAILABLE TO WOMEN IN EARLY MEDIEVAL EUROPE?
"The history of women in the Middle Ages is difficult to write. Few women where literate; their opportunities to record their own thoughts and feelings and attitudes were restricted; the bulk of medieval records were written by men for men."This statement by Christopher N.L. Brooke seems to be a quite good introduction to an essay about the roles available to women in the early Middle Ages. It reminds us how difficult is to write a female history and we can easily imagine the even greater lack of information we have to face in lower classes' women history. What we do know is that there were some women playing important roles in early medieval society. If they were an exception or not and what allowed them to assume such positions is what we are going to find out. This essay will mainly focus its attention on Frankish and Anglo-Saxon societies in the early Middle Ages. Women of that period should befirst distinguished because of their birth. Therefore, the lives of women born in the royal families and in the upper classes will be analysed separated from the lives of those belonging to the lower classes. Marriage is a factor of division among medieval women, furthermore. Therefore, we will speak about queens, wives, widows, concubines and nuns.
The family structure in the early Middle Ages was basically patriarchal. Women had rights but they were not allowed to appear in front of a judge in order to defend them. Moreover, they could not administrate directly their patrimony and laws about heredity were not favourable to them. Basically, women belong to their parents while they were nubile and to their husbands while they were married.
According to Germanic laws, marriage was arranged between the woman's tutor and her future husband who gave on that occasion a bridegift, usually called dos or Morgengabe. This marriage was, on a juridical point of vi…

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