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The role of a woman

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The renaissance. A period of prosperity and upmost extravagance where the nobles rule, the peasants drool and men achieve greatness. Women, on the other hand, led an inferior life to men because of their smaller bone structure which was believed that they were weaker and less intelligent than men. Because of this belief, they led a hard and exhausting life. In the following paragraphs, I shall prove, thanks to multiple examples, their hard and stressful life as a wife, a mother and a widow.Wives led a hard life. They were treated as tools rather than humans. One of the reasons of them having led a hard life is the housework. The home was the responsibility of the women. The lower class wives had to clean the house, tend to the children, and create some clothes…They also had to carry water from nearby streams to their home in large jugs and even do their laundry in them.

This task could also become very dangerous since many women did not know how to swim. Also, another task of the lower class women was to cook for her family. Since they have urban homes, they could not have cooked bread or butcher meat so they had to buy their meat and bread every day which could get really tiring. It could also get really get dangerous when they prepare the food with an oven since they have a small house. At home, a couple of upper class spouse have to make their house a presentable and happy place for their husband. Their responsibility was normal housework such as laundry, cooking and cleaning. But other nobles had to do none of these tasks since they were all accomplished by their servants.

Since the wives had nannies for their children, with all this free time on their hand, they practiced needlepoint or embroidery at home and, if they were well educated, they wrote or read some poetry or letters. But how did the women turn into a wife you may ask? The answer is simple, marriage, the day where a woman is at her happiest exchanging vows to be lovely husbands and wives. At least, that was how it was suppose to go. According to Theresa Huntley, women were supposed to get married at the age of 13 to men decades older. And the worst part is not only is it a forced marriage but it’s a fiancĂ© she hasn’t even chose herself .It was all because women were thought to be property of men. Families used to “sell“ their own daughter to a richer man so they could live a better life. In those days, marriage was not an act of love but just doing business.

Once married, the wife was obliged to behave properly so she could not disgrace her husband. The way a woman acts was believed to be representing not only herself but also her family. A cruel part of doing “business“ is that the wife was not allowed to divorce. She wasn’t even allowed to stray from the path and commit adultery since it was a serious crime during the renaissance period. Since it was said that marriages lasts for life, to get divorce the husband has to ask permission to the pope, which is nearly impossible since the husband needs an heir. Basically, a wife is a bird caged within her husband’s grasp. A bird who is not allowed to fly away. This metaphor helps explain the hard thing a wife has to go through.Being a wife is not the only thing a women has to go through. She also has to go through motherhood.

Theresa Huntley says that family was very important in the renaissance, especially after the Black Death killed one third of the population in Europe. So because of this incident, men started to depend more on women for their baby making skills. But they didn’t treat them special; instead they just treated them like a container meant for childbirth. But conceiving a baby is not as easy as it sounds like, especially in the renaissance period. During labor, many women died and many children passed away soon after birth. The reason behind their death is the inexperienced doctors and surgeons. Since they used to say that the body of a woman is weaker, they didn’t even bother knowing about their functions. This is why it was believed that giving birth held great risk.

In the midst of childbirth, the soon to be mother used to rely on midwives. Even though, they never attended medical schools, they still had experience with the birth process since they were women themselves. Because of the risk during the delivery of a baby, mothers prayed to a god or special saints who were specialized in childbirth. They also included Virgin Mary, St Anne and St Margaret. Not only gods and saints, but they also carried special objects which they thought helps childbirth. The objects were a snake’s skin, rabbit milk, diamonds and wearing red coral. When the child is born, the only question the husband asks is if it was a boy or not. The only reason why a mother gives birth to a child is because the husband demandes a potential heir to continue the family business, name and the blood line. In the past, watching pictures of baby boys was regarded as a way to determine the child’s sex since the image will “imprint“ itself on the mother’s womb. The only probable positive side is that if the potential heir shall prove to be good, it would improve the mother’s worth as a woman.

Because of the high risk of labor and the demands of her husband, motherhood turns out to be a really stressful thing.In the renaissance period, the independence of a woman was tested during her widowhood. “Since women married young and often outlived their husbands“ (Huntley 14), they had a hard time to adapt to their new situation since they were so dependent on their husband’s money and security. After death, the husband might leave his wife with his wealth until their male child grew. A perfect example of that situation is when King Henry II passed away and his wife, Catherine de’ Medici took control over the French royal family until the growth of her sons. Another option as a widow is to return to her family, but if her relatives turn out to be poor there would be no point. Normally, poor widows were forced to serve in inns or do basic work of cleaning. Others turned to prostitution which was a really common thing then.

The role of a woman, as a widow, was expected to look after the family’ honor for the rest of her life. Back then, a widow had to show her sorrow through her clothes. She had to wear a simple black, high collared dress with a veil on her head .For the accessories; she had to wear jewelry that represented mourning like black coral and pearls. It was encouraged to wear simple clothing but not in poor quality since it would reflect negatively on their late husbands. The deceased sometimes leaves instructions on their will about how their wife should act and dress. People thought that as widow, the wife should stay loyal to the deceased and not remarry. But a lot of women did remarry as their family’s demand, or for financial or political purpose.

If a widow remarries, her child gets raised by the late husband’s family. The worse part of this is even after death, the husband still finds a way to torment the life of the women.In conclusion, wifehood, motherhood and widowhood turn out to be a really hard thing to deal with. Even though a woman had to deal with labor, housework and the death of their husband, a man doesn’t even have a small concern to worry about. Luckily during this time of age, women and men can both stand on equal footing with no differences.

Work Cited

Huntley, Theresa. Women in the renaissance. Ed. Kathy M. St Catherines: Crabtree Publishing Company,1983.Print SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on
Italian Renaissance (1330-1550).” SparkNotes LLC. n.d..Web. 6 Sep.2014) http://www.sparknotes.com/history/european/renaissance1/

“The Status of Women During Renaissance.”123HelpMe.com.n.d..n.d..Web.12 sep.2014 http://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=123876

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