By Tim Lambert
In Anglo-Saxon England women had considerable rights and freedom (unless they were slaves! Both men and women were slaves). Married women could own and inherit property. Some women were landowners. If a man married a woman he had to give her either money or land. After they married it was her property to what she liked. She could sell it or leave it in her will to anyone she wished.
Until the 10th century, England was divided into different kingdoms. In the 7th century, Aethelstan was king of the kingdom of Kent. He had a code of laws. One law said that a woman could leave her husband if he didn’t please her. She could take the children and some of the property. In Anglo-Saxon England, if you killed someone you had to pay their relatives compensation. It was called wergild. The amount of wergild for a man and a woman was the same, but it varied greatly according to class.
Some women could read and write and they owned books.
Of course, for most Anglo-Saxon women, like most men, life was one of drudgery and hard work. Women worked baking and milking cows. They also spun and wove cloth.
Anglo-Saxon women wore a long linen garment with a long tunic over it. They also wore mantles. Both men and women used combs made of bone or antler.
There were some influential women in Anglo-Saxon England. Hilda of Whitby 614-680 was an influential woman in the Saxon church who founded the abbey at Whitby. In 664 she hosted the Synod of Whitby, an important church meeting. Aethelflaed c. 868-918 ruled Mercia (in central England) from 911 to 918. She was called the Lady of the Mercians.