Women in History

How did the treatment of women change in the 12th century?


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Life in the Middle Ages was very difficult for a woman, whether noble or peasant. Women tended to be confined to household tasks such as cooking, sewing, weaving, and spinning. Others worked as midwivesWomen who are skilled in delivering babies. or worked in the fields. Some women of the Middle Ages, however, did have other occupations such as blacksmithsThose who make, repair, and fit horseshoes and shape iron into tools. and merchants. But these were the exceptions rather than the rule.

Some women became nuns out of devotion to their religious faith. But many women were forced to become nuns because their families could not otherwise support them.

Women who tried to avoid traditional roles risked being seen as witches. Joan of Arc, for example, said she heard voices telling her to protect France against England. She dressed in armor and led her troops to victory. Her activities made her a target for witchcraft charges, and after being capture by English forces, she was burned as a witch.