Women as Chattel
By Glynnis Campbell
Chattel. It means a movable article of property.
It may not surprise you to learn that the term "chattel" comes from the medieval word for "cattle." That's right—women had about as much standing in society as COWS.
And from some of the things we've all read, it's easy to believe this was true.
I'm here to tell you that's not entirely accurate.
While medieval women may not have enjoyed equality in all things, they had far more power and responsibility than we've been led to believe.
So why does this medieval "women as chattel" myth persist?
I blame priests.
In the Middle Ages, priests made up the largest sector of the literate population. Therefore, they did the bulk of the reading and writing of the time. And they recorded the world the way they saw it.
Think about that.
Here was a group that was exclusively men. Many of them were well-educated nobles that had been forced into their profession, not by choice, but because they were a spare heir—a second or third son who had to choose between living in the church and possibly dying in the king's army.
Is it any wonder they were a little bitter toward women?
To add to the misogyny, priests were taught that women had descended from that weak-willed temptress Eve, who had disobeyed God and screwed up the earthly Paradise of Eden for EVERYONE.
In light of her obvious lack of judgment and morality, not to mention her wily ways, how could a woman ever be trusted with important decisions? It was only natural then that a man should make all the decisions for her. She should wed the man chosen for her, give him babies, and be subservient to him in every way.
Take THAT, Eve!
If you dig deeper—beyond the records of cranky priests—if you peruse business ledgers, official government documents, and personal letters, you find an entirely different portrait of medieval women.
Here are some interesting surprises:
♥ In feudal times, every lord owed his king 40 days per year of military service. For those several weeks that the lord was at war and away from home, his capable wife was usually left in charge of the household and castle defenses.
♥ When a professional member of a guild—such as a silversmith, a weaver, or a woodcarver—passed away, the guildsman's trade was often taken over by his wife. This included not only the craft work, but also running the business and keeping the accounts.
♥ One of the most beloved and popular authors of love stories in the Middle Ages was a woman, Christine de Pizan. Not only was she a prolific romance novelist, but she was a women's rights activist who defended a more enlightened role for women in society in her utopian fiction, "The Book of the City of Ladies."
♥ Medieval women sometimes donned armor and marched into battle. We know about Joan of Arc, but have you heard of Isabel of Conches, who rode with her husband's knights? What about "Fiery" Joanna of Flanders, who led her townspeople in fending off 300 attackers with stones? Or Matilda of Canossa, who had a 30-year military career? Even Christopher Columbus's patron, Queen Isabella, took to the field in full armor to command her troops.
These women were clearly no spun-sugar damsels in distress. And this vision of empowered heroines is far more real and appealing to me.
That's why my novels feature plucky, in-your-face (and sometimes kick-your-arse) heroines. I prefer to write about hard-working, goal-driven, salt-of-the-earth women—women with a sense of humor who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and their hackles up...
In MY CHAMPION, a pint-sized merchant dares to face down pirates.
In LADY DANGER, a Scots maid in armor defends her clan with a blade.
In MacADAM'S LASS, a tavern wench spies for Mary Queen of Scots.
In MEDIEVAL OUTLAWS, a thieving urchin stands up to the local lawman, a runaway bride bargains with a dangerous outlaw, and a female Robin Hood holds a knight for ransom.
And in my upcoming release, BRIDE OF FIRE, Book 1 of The Warrior Daughters of Rivenloch, a bold Scots lass challenges a Highlander for his claim to her castle.
I love dreaming up female characters with adventure in their blood and take-no-prisoner attitudes. But it's even more exciting to create heroes strong enough to stand up to my heroines’ spirited ways, yet worthy enough to win their wild hearts.
If you'd like to get up to speed with The Warrior Maids of Rivenloch before their daughters embark on new romantic adventures in BRIDE OF FIRE, here's the discounted boxed set!
Maids with Blades
Damsels in shining armor...riding to the rescue!
Deirdre, Helena, and Miriel, three kick-arse Scots wenches known as The Warrior Maids of Rivenloch, aren’t about to become any man’s chattel, until they meet heroes who are strong enough to tame their wild ways and worthy enough to win their wayward hearts.
Book 1: Lady Danger
A beautiful female warrior has never had trouble turning away men, but when she marries a powerful lord to save her sister, she soon finds herself losing the battle over her heart.
Book 2: Captive Heart
A fierce warrior maid tries to save her sister from marriage by abducting the groom's right-hand man, a plan that goes awry when her hostage is all-too-willing to succumb to her demands.
Book 3: Knight’s Prize
A lovely lady with a secret proves a welcome but dangerous distraction for a mercenary bent on hunting down the mysterious outlaw known as the Shadow.
Giveaway is now closed.
Win one of three autographed copy of SCOTTISH BRIDES
Win one of three autographed copy of SCOTTISH BRIDES
(ebook version for international winners)
Have you ever held a sword?
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Leave a comment below, and on Friday, I'll choose three winners to receive a signed copy* of my anthology of novellas, SCOTTISH BRIDES!
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Glynnis Campbell is a USA Today bestselling author of swashbuckling "medieval action-adventure romances," mostly set in Scotland, with more than 20 books published in six languages. Glynnis once rocked in an all-girl band called The Pinups on CBS Records, did voiceovers for the MTV animated series, "The Maxx," Diablo and Starcraft videogames, and Star Wars audio adventures, and is married to a rock star. She loves to transport readers to a place where the bold heroes have endearing flaws, the women are stronger than they look, the land is lush and untamed, and chivalry is alive and well!
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