Women in World History
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The Garnet-Eyed Brooch: Early Feudal England


Documenting Women's Lives

These documents, sayings and parts of poems can give clues about how women lived in England during the early Middle Ages. Read them aloud in class and discuss what they mean. Then do the activity.

1) From a poem, The Wife's Lament:
For my loved one's feud with another man, I have to pay an unfair penalty.
My husband's kinsmen have forced me to live in a forest grove, under an oak tree in this earth cave. I am choked with longings for my husband.

2) From the Domesday Survey:
Leofgyo owns lands for two ploughs; one slave; four villagers; four smallholders; a mill; five acres of meadow. Leofgyo made and makes gold-thread embroidery for the king and queen.
3) From a 7th century law:
If anyone shall steal in such a way that his wife and children know nothing of it, he shall pay 60 shillings as a fine. But if he steals with the knowledge of all his household they are all to go into slavery.
4) From The Exeter Book:
The man of rank is to concentrate on battle, and the woman to be loved by her people. She is to be cheerful, to preserve knowledge, to be open-hearted in the giving of horses and treasures. At the mead-pouring before a great company she will always first greet the ruler of princes with the first cup, then present it to her lord's hand. She should teach him wisdom for them both.
5) From a poem, Genesis:
When the warriors of wives fell fatally wounded in battle, many a frightened, white-cheeked woman had to go trembling into a stranger's home.
6) From an untitled poem:
If she doesn't like the man who wishes to obtain her in marriage, she should secretly search for a new friend.
7) From Denewulf, Bishop of Worcester:
I grant over 200 acres to a woman called Eanswyn on the condition that she mends, cleans and makes Worcester's church vestments.
8) From the Laws of Aelbert of Kent:
The woman cheese-maker is entitled to a hundred cheese, and is to make butter for the lord's table; and she is to have all the buttermilk except from the herdsman's share.
9) From the Mercian Register:
Aeoelfled, Lady of the Mercians, went with all the Mercian to Tamworth and built the fortress there in early summer; before that, in August, she built the one at Stafford.

ACTIVITYAnswer these questions by placing the proper numbers of the documents in the space provided.

 Which documents:

 Document No.
   -  show that women had little choice in what happened to them?  
   -  show that women had some choice in what happened to them?  
   -  showed the type of work that women did?  
   -  indicate how women acted?  
   -  reveal women who were expected to have some education?  
   -  refer to people as slaves?  
   -  reveal the life of upper class women?  
   -  seem most to describe the lives of women today?  

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Women in World History Curriculum