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.
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.
♥ 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...
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!
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