The status, roles and lives of women have been changing from pre history. At the begging, women were equivalent to men in all ways, except taking care of the households. This gave both of them the same value in the society. Since pre history was a period of hunting and gathering, the social distinction of wealth and property did not exist. Every member of the family contributed towards the survival of the community. For example, men went hunting for large animals while women collected fruits, nuts and roots making them rely on each other. The society also encouraged equality by discouraging the control of one sex. After sometimes, the existing equality evolved into men being ahead of women. Few women served in positions such as priestesses, scribes, shopkeepers and midwives. Women were supposed to preserve their virginity until marriage and not to socialize with married men. On the contrary, men had no obligation to such rules (Paul, Langer, Stearns & Wiesner-Hanks, 2000). The paper draws attention on how women’s lives, roles and status have been changing over various world history eras in Europe, India and Africa.
The women and labor roles in Europe during mid 1200 CE
During the era, women and men in Europe had differing roles. Men spent three days of a week working in the fields of their lords while women made butter, cheese, brewed beer and sewed clothes for the lords’ families. The lords’ allowed some women to rear sheep and cattle in order to provide them with the herd’s products (Bonnie & Zinsser, 2000).
Women who stayed in the countryside performed the same roles as their ancestors, which included household chores, domestic care and weaving. Besides, women who stayed in cities had a chance to access the same opportunities as men. In the patriarchal society of medieval in France, few public authorities offered opportunities to women. However, in larger towns and cities, women worked as butchers, bakers, merchants, fishmongers and so forth. They also dominated most occupations such as textiles, decorative arts and weaving. Most guilds included women in their ranks while others were exclusively for female membership. For example, during 1200CE, Paris had one hundred guilds, among them, twenty admitted women only as the remaining eighty admitted both men and women. Furthermore, towns and cities supported the increment of women status in Europe. This is because towns and cities were the main agents of social changes (Bonnie & Zinsser, 2000).
Women’s occupational opportunities in Europe during 1000-1100 CE
At the beginning of the era, occupational opportunities for women in medieval town, France started to increase. Different economic sectors involved a large number of women in their trades. Women became mint workers, artists, tavern keepers, firewood dealers, shoemakers among others. The era had few positions such as distant travel or heavy hauling that involved men only. Women did not possess licensed professionals such as notary and lawyer. Majority of the household servants were women dominated with young girls from the countryside. Additionally, women were highly respected for their roles of preparing and selling food even though, the professional cooks were men. Most nurses were women who cared for the sick and prescribed medicine. Industries administered women to conduct different roles such as selling of wax and candle making. They were the chief spinners and weavers of silk because they made luxury fabrics and clothes (Bonnie & Zinsser, 2000).
Women’s educational opportunities in Europe during 1200-1400 CE
During the era, education in Europe mainly consisted of reading and writing. Not every woman had a chance to access this type of education because it was only available in the cities. Therefore, the town women had chances of accessing technical education of apprenticeship. However, by 1400 CE it was evidence that few women could read the English translation of the Bible. It was also certain that a large percentage of the peasant women had no education at all. While in church, they could not read, which forced the parish priest to instruct them. They were illiterate hence not understanding the meaning of any letter without interpretation. This made them focus on domestic responsibilities, farming and submitting to their husbands (Eileen, 2004).
Hindu caste and status of women in India during 320 BCE to 480 CE
The structure of the caste system intertwined women’s status in India. The system did not allow women learn or hear the sacred verses of the Vedas, or perform sacrifices. It was also illegal for women to practice the Hindu Sanskirt rites as they were reserved for male Brahmans only. Afterwards, the Buddhists emerged and it opposed the Brahman priesthood, caste system and the animal sacrifices. It promoted equality by supporting self-education and discipline. The new system accepted women from varying castes as well as outcastes for spiritual enlightenment. In between 300 BCE and 400CE, there was the occurrence of the classical cultural era in India. The era introduced the Mahabharata and Ramayana, which had legal concepts on Hindu women expressing Brahman males’ model of female subservience (Paul, Langer, Stearns & Wiesner-Hanks, 2000).
Women and property rights in India, the law of Manu during 500 CE
During this period, a wife, son and slave had no rights to possess any property in the community. Therefore, everything that a woman received in her lifetime went to her offspring, which included the uterine sisters and brothers. Regarding marriage, the law of Manu believed that women were created to be mothers in order to take care of their families. The laws did not allow women to fast, vow or perform sacrifices. In addition, they asserted that the wives who obeyed their husbands would be exalted in heaven. On the contrary, they disgraced a woman in case she violated her duties towards the husband. They claimed that such woman would enter the womb of a jackal after her death (Paul, Langer, Stearns & Wiesner-Hanks, 2000). During that period, women could not drink liquor, separate from their husbands; dwell in other people’s houses or sleep during unreasonable hours. The divorce laws stated that a husband was to bear with a wife who hates him for one year. Suppose the situation did not change, the husband could deprive the wife. A husband was to supersede a barren woman during the eighth year, displace the one that all her children die during the tenth year and replace the quarrelsome without any delay. However, a sick wife who was kind to her husband was superseded with her own consent.
Religious practices and women rights in India during 1000-1400CE
During the era, the Hindu men from upper class were attracted to the Muslim traditional purdah. This enabled them to seclude their women from the daily society. They adopted the Muslim tradition for prestige purposes and because they believed that purdah protected women virtue. The change made the adult Indian women to start covering their heads with a scarf. Consequently, the Muslim rules had less impact on the lives of the Indian women as well as the Hindu tradition of sati. Muslim women had many rights compared to their counterparts from India. This is because Indian women concentrated on bearing children most preferably sons (Paul, Langer, Stearns & Wiesner-Hanks, 2000). However, both Indian men and women shared a position in the Indian religion pantheon. They also celebrated the Hindu female deity as a source of cosmetic power, wishes and sign of fertility.
Women roles in the society, in Africa during 1000CE
There are social forms and cultural patterns that appeared among the African women. During the era, Sex, extended families and clans played a major role in the foundation of social and economic organizations within societies. In Africa, sex was the main determinant of the work roles. For example, men conducted heavy labor roles such as clearing and preparing land for cultivation while women undertook domestic chores and child rearing. African women had more opportunities compared to their counterpart from other continents because the society regarded them as a source of life. As a result, they made their ways to positions of power and traded in markets by participating in local as well as long distance trade (Shaver & Shaver, 2005).
Women status in Africa during 1200-1400 CE
During this era, women accomplished different household roles. These included rearing children, preparing food, brewing beer, nursing the sick and promoting social harmony. Additionally, they highly participated in farm work, collected food, firewood and water. They made clothes and clay pots as well as marketing the agricultural surplus, pottery and craft work (Shaver & Shaver, 2005).
Women’s legal rights in Africa during the 618-1000 CE
During the era, the law on divorce only allowed it after mutual agreement of both spouses. However, it did not permit husband to supersede the wife on the death of her parents or when his wealth status changes. The African women were supposed to bear children, conduct domestic roles and submit to their husbands. They were free to move around the village, interact and seek advice from the married elderly women (Shaver & Shaver, 2005).
Many women were ignorant of the existing laws, which recognized their rights. Moreover, the customary, religious and cultural laws treated women as minor, making few of them to inherit property in their own names. Additionally, the women leaders at that era had fewer powers compared to their male counterparts (Shaver & Shaver, 2005).
The research paper highlighted how women’ live, roles and status varied and changed over the various early world history eras. It covered three separate eras in the world cultures of Africa, India and Europe. In Europe, the paper focused on labor roles, occupational and educational opportunities among women. In India, it discussed the Hindu caste and status of women, their rights to property and religious practices. Finally, it brought to light the roles of women in Africa, their status legal rights.
Bonnie, A., & Zinsser, J. (2000). History of Their Own, Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present. Volume II. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Eileen, P. (2004). Medieval Women. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Paul, A., Langer, E., Stearns, P., & Wiesner-Hanks, M (2000). Experiencing World History. New York, NY: New York University Press.
Shaver, H & Shaver, B. (2005). Women In World History, Volume 1, Readings from Prehistory to 1500. New York, NY: M.E. Sharpe Armonk.