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Women's Role's Before 1500

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Women's Roles Before 1500

The women's role until 1500 for the most part was to obey the men in their lives and take care of their family. Some women could work various jobs, but for the most part women were to bear children for their husbands and take care of the house. They were to stay faithful to their husbands.

The first era I will be writing about is the Neolithic era. Women were the ones who most likely began systematic care of plants. Women during this time nurtured plants meaning they planted the crops, watered them, and picked the food. Before this time they foraged for all their food both meat and plants. By planting crops that meant the Neolithic people could stay in one place rather than always mobbing to find food. This was important because that saved them a lot of money, so they could have wealth and own their families could own their land. This was a very important step forward for the Neolith people, because that saved them time to do other important things (Bentley, 2008). Women played a very important role during this time period, because they helped with the crops they did not have to keep moving.

The Mesopotamians were very strict when it came to the legal status of women. The Mesopotamian people followed Hammurabi's law, which recognizes men as the head of their households. Women had no power in the family, the husband made all of the decisions; he could sell his wife as a slave to pay off his debt. If a wife were to cheat on her husband she and the other gentleman would be punished to death by means of drowning. Women did however make their presence known in Mesopotamian society. Some women were able to advise kings and their government. A few women exercised great power as high priestesses; their job was to manage large estates belonging to their temples. Some obtained a formal education worked as scribes. If a woman was literate she could prepare administrative and legal documents for governments and private parties. Women also became midwives. brewers, shopkeepers, textile manufactures just to name a few careers (Bentley.2008). The women's role was to take care of the household, but did not have any power in the house.

In the second millennium B.C.E Mesopotamian men tightened the control over social and sexual behavior over women. To protect family fortunes and the legitimacy of their heirs, they insisted the virginity of women before marriage. Just before 1500 B.C.E they forbade women from socializing casually with men outside of her family so they made the women wear veils when they left their house. This act was to keep men from looking in the direction of the women (Bentley, 2008). Men controlled every aspect of a women's life to protect the family.

In the Aryan society men also had quite a bit of control over the women. Women had no public authority, the only influence they had was the affairs within her family. They maintained patriarchal society throughout India; women could not inherit property unless there were no males in the family. Females could not partake in family rituals that honored their departed ancestors. In the book Lawbook of Manu, which tells the patriarchal ideologies that helped structure Indian society, the author advises men to treat women with honor and respect. But those women were still to be under the guidance of the males in their life. It also states that the most important role for women were to have children and keep a wholesome home for their family. During the early centuries C.E patriarchal dominance was very pronounced. Child marriage was common during the Gupta era; when girls turned eight or nine their parents had them engaged to men in their twenties. The actual marriage took place after the female hit puberty. Wives dominated the domestic affairs in the home. Since the women were controlled by much older men they encouraged them to devote all of their time to the household. So women did not engage in public affairs (Bentley,2008). In the Aryanian society women were treated with respect from men, but the men still controlled their lives.

Greek women also fell under the control of the men in their lives. Upper-class Greek women had to wear veils when leaving their homes. In most poleis, women could not own land, but sometimes they could manage small businesses such as shops and food stalls. There were not many public positions except priestess of religious cults. Literacy was common in upper-class Greek women. One of the famous female poets of that time was Sappho. She would invite women to her house to learn about music and literature. Critics of hers charged Sappho with homosexuality, there was one verse that spoke of strong physical attraction towards women. Only small parts of her poetry survived, she fell under a moral cloud (Bentley, 2008).

Then Roman men also had all of the control over his family members. He had control over marriage and divorce. All of the marriages in his family had to have his consent first, and he could force women to divorce if they were already married. Women could not own property, borrow or lend money or make gifts. Once the woman was married she remained within her father's power unless he let his son-in-law have that power. If the transfer of power did not take place, the wife a certain degree of freedom from the husband. If the female father died and she was not married she still had a legal guardian the rest of her life. The practice of male control was maintained for the social and economic interest of the states (Carp,1981). A women's father could control her as long as he wanted even if she was married.

The Roman women did play a role in their families' social life. When the family was having a social gathering the wives were to entertain their husband's guests, and she was to accompany their husband on social visits and dinner parties. When the family was going to have a social gathering the wife sent invitations to the females and the husband sent invitations to the males. When the guests came the wife received the females and the husband received the males. The women were involved in her husband's business, the management of his estates and his political career. She could not pursue a political career herself though (Hemelrijk).

The women's role in the family is a lot like now days, but they did not have a career. She supervised the domestic work, the upbringing of her children, their husband's needs, and the care of relatives when they were ill. The women's authority and status changed once she became a mother, especially sons. She had the same authority as her husband did in the home. S. Dixon was a Roman upper-class mother who became a widow she could exercise great power of her sons despite her lack of legal power over them (Hemelrijk).




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