Daughters, Wives, and Widows: A Study of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman Noble Women
Bailey, Paula J.
Academic Forum, No.19 (2001/2)
Traditional medieval histories have tended to downplay the role of noble women in early medieval England. However, increasingly popular gender studies in the last twenty years have prompted a renewed interest by scholars eager to make up for lost time and assign women a more significant role. In light of these efforts, research now indicates Anglo-Saxon women not only had considerable independence regarding land ownership, but they could also dispose of property at will. By contrast, noble women of the Anglo-Norman period appeared, at first glance, not to have fared as well as their Anglo-Saxon predecessors. A closer study, however, reveals that these later women not only held their own honor courts, supervised households and educated their children, but, when the need arose, helped defend their homes. In the military-based society of Anglo-Norman England, noble women were also needed to produce legitimate heirs. Wives, daughters, and widows in the Anglo-Saxon and Norman English world were not on the fringes of society.