Anglo-Saxon Women in England

Saint Edith of Wilton, (961-984) was the illegitimate daughter of Anglo-Saxon King Edgar the Peaceable. She was born, educated and died at Wilton Abbey. Image from 13th C. British Library manuscript in public domain, source: http://molcat1.bl.uk/IllImages/Kslides%5Cbig/K066/K066606.jpg

Susan Abernethy is one of my favorite history bloggers, at The Freelance History Writer.  Here’s why, she sometimes takes a subject that not too much is known about, finds most of it and pulls it together in a blog post that is informative, interesting (sometimes fascinating) and mostly noncontroversial. To me it seems, she is simply portraying facts, while not pushing a narrative, and I’m grateful. Here’s a taste of her, on AngloSaxon women.

On the topic of ordinary Anglo-Saxon women in England there are some limited sources of historical information. These are mostly in the form of wills and charters, literature and poetry and law codes of the Anglo-Saxon kings. More information exists regarding aristocratic and religious women. From the evidence we have we can glean some small details on what life was like for Anglo-Saxon women. Surprisingly these women enjoyed some economic and marital rights.

Bede, in his “Ecclesiastical History of the English People”, says Angles, Saxons and Jutes crossed the sea from the continent in a mass migration to England and settled and colonized there in the fifth century. In general, these people were Germanic, pagan, uneducated and illiterate. We do know a little about the political events of this era and how they fought with the native Britons for power. It can only be inferred that women came with them. There are Anglo-Saxon cemeteries where women were buried with Anglo-Saxon grave goods. Very early sources are littered with female Anglo-Saxon names and place names. No doubt there was intermarriage between these people and the native Britons but there is not much evidence this took place in the upper echelons of society. There is little evidence the Anglo-Saxons settled in Romano settlements or adopted their culture.

Ordinary Anglo-Saxon Women

Interesting evidence has been discovered in Anglo-Saxon graves. These have included single beads, perforated boars tusks worn as pendants, crystal balls and cowrie shells. These objects are sometimes called amulets. They were seen as having healing or protective power. They have been found in the graves of men and children but appear more frequently in women’s graves. This could symbolize that women were the protectors of their family’s health. It could also signify they were healers, prophets or wise women.

The commonplace word for woman in Old English is “wif” meaning wife or woman. The origin of the word is obscure but it regularly occurs in the phrase “weras and wifas” meaning men and women. This word could be etymologically associated with the words for weaving. Evidence does suggest that women were most often associated with cloth-making and producing clothing. Perhaps early in the culture, men were associated with fighting and hunting and women were linked to weaving, spinning and embroidery.

Grave goods have been unearthed which are linked to cloth production. Thread boxes have been found containing thread, needles and small bits of cloth. Spindle-whorls and weaving batons have also appeared. Regular households and those of free born families may have made cloth and clothing for themselves with an emphasis on warmth and durability. In large, wealthy households, women may have woven cloth with their own hand and there may have been slaves trained in weaving. In these households, there would have been time and money available to clothe the household and to produce church vestments to give as gifts to churches and churchmen.

A text survives that explains the duties of the administrative officer called the reeve. It has lists of necessary equipment for a household. One list gives equipment needed for producing cloth and another list has the type of chests needed to store the clothing and other soft furnishings such as bed-clothes, table-linen, seat-covers and wall coverings. These items and chests have been listed in wills as being bequeathed to heirs along with clothing.

via Anglo-Saxon Women in England – Mittelalter

Keep going, it’s fascinating when she gets into the rights that Anglo-Saxon women had, far better for them that it was under the Normans. Enjoy!

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About NEO
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19 Responses to Anglo-Saxon Women in England

  1. the unit says:

    I don’t know. Stating facts and not pushing narrative? Well, how about subliminal narrative of women’s rights under a Muslim Conquest? And if so good! Maybe get more openly of what may come. Times they are a changing…reverting back again?
    You had the Coolidge quote about the times under our Constitution…that as ultimate good forward movement of liberalism…any other would be reactionary, back to no suffrage, freedom, and liberty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      There’s truth in that, but she writes straight history. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        Fine, you’ve read her and know. I’ll just read my own narrative into it then. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          We all do that! 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

  2. the unit says:

    Done two days of looking (research?) for the kid actor in Hondo. Deon Sammis, maybe Jessica knows something. Kid in Shane has information on Wiki, deceased of course. Can anything concerning John Wayne movie be OT?

    s

    Like

    • NEO says:

      Nope, it can’t! I don’t know either, we’ll see if Jess does, hopefully she’ll find time, she’s horrifically busy lately.

      Like

      • the unit says:

        Well, if just know something. No need to know really. If alive doubt he’s endorsed Trump. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Doubt it, myself. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. the unit says:

    I do endorse nationalism over globalism. Globalism as it is… is the neo colonialism extracting human resources, and minerals too. Not just certain demographics and certain nations, all.
    NPR had program that yes time would to come to give national income to all humans as robots would do all the physical work and achievement in production as to what we want to consume. Fiat money to buy with. Guess they (robots) would do that all by themselves , not luck. Tax structure still to be worked out. May take robots to replenish the tree of liberty.
    Well as retired guy not happy not being productive anymore. I guess not happy designated on doctor’s form could mean lost of 2nd Amendment right. Of course I get happy when buying Hardee’s sausage and egg biscuit with my fiat money. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      There are problems with globalism, but more with protectionism, I think, and automation is going to happen whatever we think. The days of legions of people employed are as over, as weaving your cloth at home. It really is the second industrial revolution, and we need to find solutions, not simply lament the past. Thus sayeth the preacher! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. the unit says:

    You mean there may crony capitalists and politicians expecting real money on what robots accomplish? Well I will pay more fait dollars if the robot doesn’t spit or worse on my biscuit. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • NEO says:

      You’ll pay more money, fiat or otherwise if things are made by hand or with outdated technology. You’ll pay a lot more money if we impose a ~40% tariff on imported goods. The best thing that ever happened to the poor in America (if there really are any, which seems doubtful comparing us to the rest of the world) is Wal-Mart. They aren’t really good value, but the first cost, which is what matters when you need a shirt, is incredibly cheap. Crony-capitalists are a drain on all real wealth production, which is another story. 🙂

      Like

      • PatriotUSA says:

        First cost matters not a whit to me. Where it is made and with what percentage of made in USA contents, parts is what matters to me. I am a conservative, very conservative consumer and why I do things like save me bucks over time and buy say, a Speed Queen washer. SQ dryer will be bought later this year. I know I am a dying breed, one who buys strictly made in USA for as much as possible. Is a pain in the arse, takes time to research and costs more. I will support this until I am dead. Crony capitalists should be considered for ‘removal’ like commies, socialists and such ilk. Then again, I am wired a a bit differently than most it seems.

        Liked by 2 people

        • NEO says:

          Yep, I’m the same way, but if you’re making $8 and hour and need a pair of jeans, it can limit your choices rather dramatically. We’ve been around a couple of days, and understand delayed gratification, and that makes us rare, anymore.

          Like

  5. the unit says:

    I’m sure we will get to the another story in due time. I bought a pair I jeans at Walmart, took my time looking at the entertainment. Ten bucks a year ago wear every day. Wash every couple of weeks while I take my nap Only complaint it didn’t have the watch pocket, I liked to put my P.O Box key there every few days when going to Post Office. But I preserved.
    However when going to the grocery couple of weeks ago, tripped on broken asphalt in the parking lot and stumbled down on one knee. Got a little hole there now, nothing big, and it’s symmetrical in shape. Daughter says don’t worry it’s in style, particular when it enlarges. 🙂

    Like

  6. PatriotUSA says:

    True about the hourly wage. Instant price eye candy. Yep, we are from a different time and place. I made $1.15 an hour me first job and learned straight away that cheap price at first glance was donkey shit. I learned this with cowboy boots, jeans and work clothes real fast. It took hold and spread from there. I learned to save at an early age and not in the banks. I so hate the times we live in. Heck, I still travel exclusively by train in when I travel which is rarely. Deep sighs and deep breaths I guess…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Yep, I think mine was about $1. Wasn’t a hard lesson to learn, hard part now, especially with clothing is to find good stuff. I’m semi OK with banks, but feel better with cash on hand.

      You must be my brother from another mother, as they say. Sounds like we had the same lessons.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: My Article Read (5-14-2016) (5-15-2016) – My Daily Musing

  8. Pingback: My Article Read (5-14-2016) (5-15-2016) – Br Andrew's Muses

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