By Christine G. Clark
Brigham Young University Law Review (1995)
Introduction: Throughout much of history, women have had little opportunity to control their own destinies. However, a surprisingly bright period for women took place from about A.D. 580 to 1066 in Anglo-Saxon England. “Old English society allowed to women, not only private influence, but also the widest liberty of intervention in public affairs.” During this period women exercised considerably greater control over their destinies than did their female descendents after the Norman Conquest in 1066.
This Comment compares the position of women in Anglo-Saxon society with women in Anglo-Norman society and concludes that Anglo-Saxon women generally enjoyed more rights than their Anglo-Norman sisters. The Anglo-Saxon period is discussed in section II. A brief history of the period is presented, after which this Comment describes some of the legal and customary rights women enjoyed during the Anglo-Saxon period, including land ownership, marriage and child custody, professional opportunities, political leadership, and participation in the legal system. Section III begins with a brief history of the Norman Conquest, followed by a description of the above listed rights as applied to Anglo-Norman women. Section IV concludes with a discussion of possible reasons why Anglo-Saxon women had more expansive rights than their Anglo-Norman counterparts.