'not The Marrying Kind' Single Women In Medieval History

1338 words - 6 pages

This essay will discuss and explore the place of single women in Medieval history. The dawn of marriage, the outcomes for widows and the preference to virginity were all major issues for single women throughout history. The sorts of occupations available to women, from trades people, nuns, farm workers, health advisors, retail in shops and pubs and sex workers were all necessary for sustaining the single women. The leadership of the Catholic Church in communities, and general social moral values in Medieval society also caused the single women grief and trauma.Marriage was the expected outcome for every good woman in Medieval history. The married state was the only situation where ...view middle of the document...

So long as there was no child of age to inherit the family property, business or assets, the widow would now be given a new position of respect and authority. Women often ruled territories and even kingdoms upon the absence or death of her husband. These women did sometimes re-marry, or in cases where abstinence was sort they would live out their days in a monastery (Grinberg-Vinaver 1955).Virginity was seen as next to saintliness and abstinence from sex as the only acceptable state. Girls were expected to remain chaste until they were married. Elite young women were closely watched and kept at home to preserve their virginity, because it was thought that as women, they had a weaker intellect and therefore easily fell into sin (Stoertz 2001). In some documented cases, both men and women chose abstinence in Marriage for spiritual reasons (Mosher Stuard 1996).Gaining work and obtaining financial independence as a single woman in Medieval History was complicated and the social stigma of a single working woman in the community was poor. The single women of the lower to middle classes who could not be reliant on a husband or father to keep her had to find some sort of employment to keep her and any dependants alive. Employment open to uneducated women at the time such as a pub wench, laundress and even domestic servants were also seen as sex workers. This created much difficulty for the single women, who because of their occupation were often the victims of abuse and rape. The single woman who had occasion to enter a male space was viewed as sexually suspect. Being a working woman outside of the home or family business was seen as fundamentally sinful. Some women were lucky enough to have education in a trade such as lacework and needlework, or as health workers, birthing babies and providing natural remedies for ailments. Widows may have inherited a business which they take the responsibility of running. Another avenue for women was to become a nun and enter the monastery, which provided food and lodgings in return for complete abstinence and obedience to the church (Mazo Karras 2004).Despite the fact that male homosexuality has been well documented by medieval physicians lesbianism seems to have been ignored. There is very little documentation as regards medieval lesbian practices, although what has been recorded by theologians and canonists is bleak. If discovered, lesbians were subject to torture, imprisonment and execution. Even so, often same sex relationships between females remained ignored by most, seen as causing little harm since no sperm were spilled. Love enjoyed between the lesser sex was of no threat to society, unless marriage was resisted (Bennett 2000).It was the Catholic Church...

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