The Life Of Viking Women

Learn about how women and girls lived in the Viking era.

Viking girls and wives were in charge of the home, cooking, sewing and weaving. Responsibilities of the Viking wife were looking after the farm animals, making butter and cheese, making sure food lasted through the winter, preparing meals for the family and taking charge of the farm when her husband was out raiding or exploring. A wife from a rich family would have many slaves to help her fulfill her duties.

Sewing and weaving were a major part of a Viking woman's life, and they spent many hours each day at the loom or spinning wool. Viking women were very talented at weaving linen, tapestries and spinning wool. Food dyes were used to dye linen and wool different colours, and tapestries adorned the walls of longhouses as decorative features.

Viking women wore a long linen dress that was either plain or pleated. They wore a long woolen tunic, a little like an apron over the dress. Over the tunic she might wear a shawl if it was cold. Her legs and feet were covered with thick woolly socks and soft leather shoes.

Girls were married between the ages of 12-16. The girls had no say in the marriage and they were then expected to run a household. A wife could divorce their husband if their husband mistreated them or their children, was lazy or not a good provider or insulted her family. The process of divorce was quite simple and all the wife had to do was call some witnesses and proclaim she was divorced from her husband at the front door and at their bed.

The Viking woman had more rights than any other woman in Europe at the time. Everything a woman brought into a Viking marriage was hers, and did not become the property of her husband's estate. This included her dowry, which usually included linen and wool, a spinning wheel, a loom and a bed. This may vary, depending on the wealth of the bride's family.

Husbands trusted their wives and allowed them to be responsible for many important things. The woman of the house wore the keys to all the buildings tied around her waist as a sign of her authority and responsibility.

Women slaves had no legal rights, and if they became pregnant the child was the property of the slave's owner. If the slave was sold when pregnant, the child became the property of the new owner. Free woman's children were protected by law and recognized as the property of their mother. Even after divorce the children were entitled to inheritance, and could not be taken off their mother by their father.

One thing that I find particularly noble about the Viking's way of life is the way that they treated their women. In many cultures, women are not entitled to the same rights and respect as Viking women were given. In most cultures it would be the man's decision to divorce the wife, but in the Viking's case this is different. Also, the wife was not regarded as the possession of a man, but almost like an equal other. She was given responsibilities and trust, and the right to divorce her husband if he was not treating her respectfully. The only enforcement that remained on Viking women was that they did not get a choice about whom they married.

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