Viking Era

Viking warfare – overview of how women fared during and after the Viking Age – 7/

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The delightful book Norse Warfare: A Portrayal of Combat, Raids, and Plunder in the Viking Age by Martina Sprague briefly touches on how women got along during the Viking age and how their conditions generally deteriorated after that era ended.

Women in the Viking Age

Author points out at several places in the book that Norse women had more freedom and power in the Viking world than women did in the European world. Norse women could divorce their husband if the husband did not properly provide for them. Norse women could own property and inherit wealth in their own name. When the menfolk were off aviking for months at a time, or even years, the Norse women ran the farm and had all the responsibility to manage the family’s resources. I’ve recall reading somewhere that women could commit to a contract, which makes sense with the responsibility to run the farm for many months at a time. Author points out that the conversion to Christianity curtailed women’s rights. Text specifically says they lost the right to manage their finances. I would imagine they could no longer own land in their own name and probably could not directly inherit assets from the woman’s parents. Author also says women lost the right to speak their peace, presumably in public. I don’t doubt those transitions and more took place because of the conversion away from paganism. Author says that sexual practices were, um, “relatively open” in the Viking era, but that attitude changed with conversion to Christianity. Author says that women became the sinners in such matters even though they were the object of men’s sexual desires. I would like to disagree with those assessments, but knowing how Christianity has treated women as recently as 50 years ago (or even as some segments of certain traditions treatment women today), I would be hard-pressed to put up any argument.

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