marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

Peace-Weavers & Shield Maidens

Peace-Weavers & Shield Maidens: Women in Early English Society by Kathleen Herbert

An extensive look at all the literary evidence left behind by the Anglo-Saxons.  Which is to say, a slim little pamphlet sized book.

In it she hunts for what knowledge can be unearthed from our sparse records.  Opening with a foreign account, told the Greek writer by Franks, of an English princess whose betrothal was broken off because her husband's father had realized he was about to die and instead married off his son to his stepmother, for the alliance.  The princess raised a war force to come and capture him -- and ask why he had put her aside when she had given him no grounds.  He groveled, sent away his new bride, and married her.

Then we get into the linguistic terms.  Women were men, of course:  wifmen rather than weremen.  Wif may be derived from the word for weaving.

There's also such biographical accounts as we have of women, especially queens.  The Lady of the Mercians had only one daughter, and a chronicler recounted that she had repulsed her husband afterwards, saying it did not befit a king's daughter to enjoy such pleasures at the price of such later pains.  It may be too late to be real evidence, but it was regarded as imaginable in Anglo-Saxon times.

The advice that women got.  Complaints about fine dressing abbesses and nuns.  The injunction that a queen must be cheerful.

The records from the monasteries, particularly the German missionaries.  Also the records indicate quite a bit about women's travel.  The Husband's Message begs his wife to join him, because he has everything else, fit for her to share, but not her.
Tags: history reviews: medieval

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