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WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE AGES Inma Díaz de la Torre Noelia Moreno García Gracia María Santos Mota Azahara Téllez Arjona


WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE AGES INTRODUCTION The purpose of this webquest is to offer an immersion in the far away world of the Middle Age. It was a period full of light and darkness, where women didn't have either the rights or the possibilities that they have nowadays. The challenge will be to try to identify ourselves with those women, and from that perspective we will try to do a presentation, comparing their lives with those women in the 21st century.

THE CLERGY During the Middle Ages women held a difficult position in society. They were largely confined to household tasks such as cooking, baking bread, sewing, weaving, and spinning. However, they also hunted for food and fought in battles and they learnt to use weapons to defend their homes and castles. Some medieval women held other occupations. There were blacksmith, merchant, and apothecary women. Others were midwives, worked in the fields, or were engaged in creative endeavours such as writing, playing musical instruments, dancing, and painting.


So, every day women normally stretched their arms as they slowly climbed out of their straw filled pallet. They quickly dressed in their long tunic and splashed last night’s water on their face and hands. They peeked out the door way at the chilly morning sky. They put out the breakfast of bread and water. A day in their life…  Breakfast-bread and water.  Spinning, weaving, sewing, embroidery, and carding wool.  Dinner-bread, water, and fried goose eggs.  Walking to help with the sheeps.  Working in the fields of wheat.  Praying at the church.  Delivering cloth goods to the castle.  Supper-fried fish, fried goose eggs, bread and water.  Preparing for bed.

On the other hand I think that in the Middle Ages the Church was more important than nowadays, because in the middle ages people were more serious.


In the middle ages there were many differences between women and men; for example, the men who were nobles, divided their land among the lesser nobility, who became their servants or vassals. Peasants worked the land and produced the goods that the lord and his manor hended. The lords, in close association with the church, assumed the roles of judges in carrying out the laws of the manor; whereas the women were confined to household tasks such as cooking, baking bread, sewing, weaving, and spinning. However, they also hunted for food and fought in battles, learning to use weapons to defend their homes and castles. Some medieval women held other occupations. There were women blacksmiths, merchants, and apothecaries. Others were midwives, worked in the fields, or were engaged in creative endeavours such as writing, playing musical instruments, dancing, and painting. Sometimes, I would like to live in the Middle Ages because there wasn’t so much pollution. So, life during those days seems better. But on the other hand the life of women would be very hard because they were considered lower than man.



A juggler was an artist of the entertainment in the medieval Europe, gifted to play instruments, to sing, to tell stories or legends. They differed of the minstrels for their humbler origins, to have as end to entertain and not to be authors of their verses, because they were generally copies of orderly minstrels' verses for themselves, although some existed who composed their own works. Inside the first stage of the Half Age among the X century and the first half of the XIII century the epic jugglers prevailed (learned poets in fact) that recited (not always) editions and fragments of narrative or biographical poetry. Starting from the second half of the XIII century and in the XIV century they prevail more the lyrical jugglers that recited the called "court poetry."

The two festival cycles, are that of winter, with the parties of the Lunatics, of the Ass and many local varieties, taken place at year beginning, between Christmas and Epiphany, always based on the subversion of the established order and, on all, the Carnival, where it prevails the disguise, the masks and the jeer, where the excesses in everything maybe arrived to the maximum in the food and the drink, as prelude to the period of penance and abstinence that on Wednesday of ash began that it closed the party; the revenge character, of fight among Mr Carnal and Mrs Lent, took place in all Europe.


The other cycle, that of the spring, with the Mays and the solstice of celebrated summer Saint John's night, with the fire, it burns it of the past and the renovation before reborning of the nature, they constitute less dramatic parties that those and with a bigger erotic component.

The medieval woman's role in the medieval parties was that to prepare all the necessary things for the banquets and also to entertain men, that is to say, they were dedicated to the works and to be a sexual object for men.

A deluxe profession for the medieval women was that of singers, also that of dancer. The women dedicated to these tools were very considered in the Muslim world acquaintance is the importance that gives the Islamic society to the arts related with the music -. These women, amen of the domain of the necessary techniques for the execution of her work, they used to have a careful education.


Few cases of troubadour women have arrived to our days, always of the nobility, of among those that the Countess highlights by day but also others as Alamanda of Castelnau, Azalais of Porcairagues, María of Ventadorne, Tibors, Castelloza, Garsenda of Proenca, Gormonda of Monpeslier, Juana of Arch, Eloísa and María Molina.

If we could advise a woman of that age we would tell them to try to get independence from men and to refuse to have sex unwanted as well as to get married to somebody she did not like and fight as much as possible to enjoy the freedom that will allow them to have a good education and to study and not to depend on men’s decisions.


THE INQUISITION The Inquisition was a machinery of repression, whose mission was to watch over the purity of the religious beginning (principles), to prevent the spread of the Protestantism and of the materialistic ideas, considered harmful to the purity of the Catholicism. The history of the Inquisition, marked the beginning of a mortal pulse between intolerance and freedom.

The act of faith was a public manifestation of the Inquisition. If the judgment of the Inquisition was condemnatory, it implied that the condemn had to take part in the ceremony. The acts of faith could be private or public.

Today the Inquisition would be unthinkable because every person is free to think what he/she wants and believe or not in God and the church. I would not be present at an act of faith because it was a way of demonstrating that you agreed with the Inquisition.


Nowadays does not exist such a big lack of freedom as there was at this period although it continues existing but is penalized in oher ways. The women are getting every day more freedom and can express freely. In that epoch there was just one way of thinking, people were reliogious and if you didn’t agree with their reliogous ponts of view you were condemned.


HEALER WOMEN AND WITCHES Women has always had a big role in medical labours, although the official science has not always recognised this role. In every village there was a woman to call in case of illness. The Church did not accepted women’s power in this field of the society, only graduated men were meant to do these jobs. The real situation was that men could not heal society’s common illnesses and women could successfully do it.

The Church blamed these women to take off their power and they were treated as witches. They accepted laws in order to let practise medicine only to graduated people, but women could not access universities. In the meantime, the Church allowed certain women to help in case of common illnesses, but these women only could be found in the covenants. Only the midwives kept their position. In the Middle Ages, men couldn’t examine women when she had an illness, so they had to do it themselves. Women learned to do many home-made remedies and solutions.


The midwife role was very important in this period. Midwives were women that help pregnant women to give birth to babies. This role was transmitted from mothers to daughters and it was seen with contempt and fear because it was related to witchcraft. Midwives had knowledge about home-made remedies to relieve the pain, to remedy women’s illnesses or even ways to have a miscarriage. For this reason midwives were seen like witches and were persecuted. When people called the midwife to assist the birth, she had to prepare many things. Midwife went to the pregnant woman’s house. She heated up water, took humid rags for the labour and gave solutions to the pregnant. When the baby was born, the midwife had to clean him/her and others routines. In the moment of birth only women could stay there, except when the pregnant was a royal person like queens, countess, noblewomen, etc. as well as a notary than certificated that the baby was legitimate. Not all the births were easy. In many births there were complications. A lot of women and babies died in the births because of hygienic mistakes, infections or numerous births. Five over ten children died within six years.


If I lived in the Middle Age I would help these women because they saved people’s lives on many ocassions. They were wise women who knew a lot about traditional medicine and home-made remedies. Although their role was not recognised at that period, it has been very important to our history and our medicine.


Women in the Middle Ages  


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