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During the High Middle Ages, the
population of Europe increased greatly which allowed trade to prosper and the
Medieval Period climate to change. The political structure where knights      and lower-status nobles owed military
service to their overlords in return for the right to rent from lands and
manors, were two of the ways society was organized in the High Middle Ages. Men
during this time was seen as this prestige figure versus women, they are seen
less. Women were taught to be a “good wife” to their husbands by cleaning,
cooking home food, and taking care of the children. 1
Once a woman is married, they would have restrictions on what to do and what
they are expected to do in the house which is usually cooking and cleaning.

Women, even those in privileged lifestyle, had little control over the route of
their lives. 2 Women
in general, had arranged marriage by their families and this also goes for the
husbands. Depending on the woman’s status, they had different responsibilities
when it comes to being in the kitchen. Medieval women played an active role in
this society. The three major groups of women that contributed a lot to the
society are Royal/Noblewomen, Religious women (Nuns), and Peasants/Serfs women.

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The similarity between a royal
woman and a noblewoman is that they are placed in the same environment, which
was the castle. These two groups of women are known as the top two in the
medieval hierarchy. A royal woman doesn’t really have any relationship towards
the kitchen. Their main duty as a queen is to help the king and noblemen find
ways to spy on rivals, wars, or simply spread important gossip throughout the
But noblewomen, has somewhat relationship with the kitchen which is supervising
all meals while the kitchen staff prepares food.

As noblewomen, they have other jobs
that deals with maintaining the castle. Sometimes they would have to manage
small hotels and restaurants. 4When
they were younger, they were taught how to be a “good woman” by learning how to
cook, and maintain the house. So that when they get married, their main duty would
be bearing children. During this time, having a big family was normal. Most
medieval woman would become pregnant about 4 to 8 times. 5When
a wealthy noblewoman gets married, the celebration would last for nine days of
feasting. Some of the food they would serve are eggs, cheese, bread, boars,
chicken, and even pigeons. 6

The next group of women are the
religious women, also known as nuns. Studies shows that 7 to 10% of women never
married. For upper class women, the convent was an alternative to married life.

Older women also became nuns, many widows chose this way of life after death of
their husband. The medieval ceremony for a woman to become a nun is similar to
a wedding- a nun would be seen as married to God. 7A
ring would be placed on their finger and they would wear a wedding gown.

Becoming a nun was a serious life-long commitment and usually meant continuous
hard work. That work was almost certainly manual for those that did not come
from wealthy families.8
As a nun, most of their time is dedicated towards prayer, study, and work.

Their work period ran about 5 to 6 hours a day.

Medieval nuns had to take care of
children around the age of seven, and to teach them either directly or
indirectly. The major jobs as a nun are supervising the daily routine
management, household accounts, and staffs of servants. They also maintain
church services, and oversee the setting of the tables. They took care of
linens and dishes. As the years went by, however, they employed people to
perform many chores. Those people are seen as the lower class, also known as

Peasant women were expected to
share in all their husband’s labor on the farm. Medieval peasant women who
works in the castle provides meals and took orders from their lord and his
family. 9Most
of them were expected to cook, clean, and wait on the lord. The lives of these
women changed with the season. For example, small animals require slaughtering
and skinning during the autumn as it wasn’t practical to feed animals during
the winter. The meat was then soaked in salt. Bread was the main source of food
for the peasant woman and her family. Corn, grain, cabbage, beer, and cider was
obtained from the local area. 10During
the busiest time of the year, such as harvest, women often joined their husband
in the field to bring in the crops. Medieval peasant women often participated
in brewing, baking, and manufacturing textiles11.

The most common symbol of the peasant women was the distaff – a tool used for
spinning flax and wool.

Peasant were the poorest people in
the medieval era, but serfs were the poorest of the peasant class. Serf women
had to do extra work. They had certain payments, either in money or more often
in grain, honey, eggs, or other products. Medieval serf women have a labor on
the lord’s domain for 2-3 days each week.12
They were basically slaves. Female serfs had to spin and weave materials every
year for the lord Many serf women didn’t marry because of a shortage of
eligible landholding partners. These women worked inside and outside of the
kitchen but mainly in the fields.

A typical day for serf women is
starting the day with breakfast. Their breakfast includes bread, an onion, a
piece of cheese and some beer. Both men and women serfs worked in the fields,
but women took care of most of the household chores13
which involved raising children, shearing sheep, milking sheep and cows, taking
care of the chickens, making clothes, gardening, preparing meals, and baking.14
Women also managed the household economy. The household depends on the women’s
wise choice on managing the food supplies to keep them fed from monthly and
In the evening, usually serf women would prepare lunch that includes stew made
with onions, cabbage, peas and turnips, with a seasoned bone or possibly a bit
of meat.

Women’s place in medieval society
have strike a balance between the power of their wealth, status and
achievements are often corresponding the background of ordinary women, whose
lives tended to leave few remains on the historical record. Although, women
didn’t have the biggest roles in the kitchen.  They still contributed inside and outside of
the kitchen which lead to why the economy increased in the medieval time
period. Women, in general, were either ignored by men or taken for granted.

There were rarely any religious or romantic literature that gave information
about the actions the women have made. Most of the books and journals were
written by men.

The lives of these women were
exceedingly hard and unfair. Many would have blame Christianity. While
Christianity might have played a small role as to why men thought they could
treat women this particular way, they also provided protection for women as
well. 16It
did not allow divorce for any given reason compare to how it is now. Men were
allowed to beat them within an inch of their life. There were some kings that
treated women fairly and had respect for them but there weren’t a lot of them. Even
though, women weren’t the producing popular recipes or known for their cooking.

They were still involved with producing the ingredients, harvesting them and
making sure the economy stays active. Men can have the title of professional
during this time but women were the main reason why all these ingredients were
there in the first place because, they were the ones planting and harvesting

1 Gina L. Greco & & Christine
M. Rose, ed., The Good Wife’s Guide: Le Ménagier de Paris (Cornell University
Press, 2009), 15-20.

2 Alixe Bovey, “Women in medieval
society,” British Library,
(November 15, 2017).


3 Simon Newman, “Queen in the Middle
Ages,” The Finer Times,
/Middle-Ages/queens-in-the-middle-ages.html (November 20,2017).

4 Linda Alchin, “Noble Women in
Middle Age,” Lords and Ladies, http://www.lordsandladies.

(November 17, 2017).

5 Ibid., 1.

6 Ibid., 1.

7 Alixe Bovey, “Women in medieval
society,” British Library,
(November 15, 2017).

8 Ibid.,1.

9 Pat Knapp & Monika von. Zell,
“Women and Work in the Middle Ages,” /sca/womenandwork
(November 15, 2017).

10 Linda Alchin, “Medieval Peasant
Women,” Medieval life and times,
(November 15, 2017).

11 Ibid., 1.

12 Pat Knapp & Monika von. Zell, “Women
and Work in the Middle Ages,” /sca/womenandwork (November
15, 2017).

13 Alchin, Linda “Serfs Daily
Life.”  Lords and ladies. (November 15, 2017).

14 Ibid., 1.

15 Ibid., 1.

16 Pat Knapp & Monika von. Zell,
“Women and Work in the Middle Ages,” /sca/womenandwork
(November 15, 2017).


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