Throughout most of history women generally have had fewer legal rights and career opportunities than men have. The fourteenth century women were primarily housewives. "The domestic side of life that is, housework, food, preparation, childbirth and cloth making - is readily associated with medieval women." Being a wife and mother were regarded as womens most significant professions. Since early times women have been viewed as a creative source of human life. Historically, however, they have been considered intellectually inferior to men. This belief lead most societies to limit womens education to learning domestic skills.
Mary, Lady Chudleighs poems "The Ladies Defense" and "To The Ladies," illustrates how women were expected to be meek and passive. Chudleigh describes how women were dependent on men for patronage by saying "Tis hard we should be by men despised, / Yet kept from knowing what would make us prized, / Debarred from knowledge, banished from the schools." "Wife and servant are the same, / but only differ in the name," Chudleigh provides evidence that women were considered to be slaves. Women were also considered as property. Before marriage a womans possessions were her fathers property, and after marriage her husbands. As women were compared to slaves, they were expected to obey the men of the family. "When she the word Obey has said, / and man by law supreme had made," by using the word Obey, Chudleigh conveys to us that women had no power of their own. Their husbands or master's word was their command as they lived in a world dominated by men. "And fear her husband as her god: / Him still must serve, him still obey, / And nothing act, and nothing say, / But what her haughty lord thinks fit," it was assumed that they would be happy and content if they were able to marry and take care of their families.
Marriages were usually arranged according to status during the Middle Ages. An arranged marriage was usually the norm. Married life for a woman was not easy. Women had several duties to fulfill at home. Along with house chores women, helped their husbands with trading or various business duties. In a marriage if the wife did something wrong, she could be beaten as her punishment. The Wife of Bath becomes deaf in one ear after her husband Janekin hits her. To act against your husband for such punishment was exceptional, but she does so by punching him back. A reaction like this was not expected from women, as they were supposed to be submissive and not rebellious.
As time advances cultural views about women in society are broadened. The women of the twentieth century are much more liberal today. Women are independent. They work and support themselves as well as their family. Housework and taking care of the children is equally divided amongst husband and wife. Women today speak up for themselves and for their rights. If she wishes a divorce, a woman can legally get one and does not have to suffer through the torture like women in the earlier times did. As times advance, several changes come through in the society we live in. Today's women undergo several marriages and divorces, but for fourteenth century women, this was not expected. To speak about chastity and virginity in the open amongst men was considered disgraceful during the Middle Ages, but not anymore.
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