marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

Women in Anglo Saxon England

Women in Anglo Saxon England:  and the Impact of 1066 by Christine Fell

An exhaustive discussion of what is known, with much discussion of the sources and what can be gleamed from them.

And what can't.  The mythological matters are shown by the use of "haegtesse" and "wicce" to translate both a mortal oracle and the Fates.

How legends recount how great queens gave gifts -- indeed, The Husband's Message includes as one reason why his wife should join him is that they can together distribute riches.

What wills can show us about daily life by itemizing bequests.  And sometimes things were left to a group of women -- probably indicating they would be used in the women's quarters.

Preparing food was not high status.  In Aelfric's Colloquy, the cook defending his job from the claim they can cook themselves retorts that then they will all be slaves and none of them lords.

Marriage and the morning gift and how property was held -- women unquestionably had property rights in marriage since the laws provide for punishments through forfeiting her property for complicity with certain crimes of her husbands.

Slavery has a double status in literary works.  On one hand there are stupid drunken slaves.  On the other hand, obviously slaves could have been of quite high status once.  And Hrothgar's queen in Beowulf, Wealhtheow, is described as a noble woman, and wearing gold, but her name means "foreign slave."  (The book discusses why the author chose it.  Me, I think it possibly there's a story that was lost in there.)   In real life, we can piece together some things from manumissions -- some slaves bought their own freedom, some had it bought, and some were freed by wills or as charity ("for the good of her soul" one woman wrote in a manumission of many slaves.

The wider meaning of the term "friendship" in that era.

Families and relations, perhaps most clearly traced out in wills.  Religious life.  Where the Viking women differed.  And some chapters on the Norman Conquest and its effects.

Lots of interesting stuff in there.
Tags: families: matrimony, families: other, families: parent/child, families: siblings, history reviews: medieval, world-building: economics, world-building: food, world-building: social structure

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