Throughout the Middle Ages, too, the social and physical conditions of life, the constant wars, and above all the slow communications, inevitably threw a great deal of responsibility upon wives as the representatives of their absent husbands. It has been asserted in all ages that the sphere of woman is the home, but it has not always been acknowledged that that sphere may vary greatly in circumference, and that in some periods and circumstances it has given a much wider scope to women than in others. In the Middle Ages it was, for a variety of reasons, a very wide sphere, partly because of this constantly recurring necessity for the wife to take the husband’s place. While her lord was away on military expeditions, on pilgrimages, at court, or on business, it was she who became the natural guardian of the fief or manager of the manor, and Europe was full of competent ladies, not spending all their time in hawking and flirting, spinning and playing chess, but running estates, fighting lawsuits, and even standing sieges for their absent lords. When the nobility of Europe went forth upon a crusade it was their wives who managed their affairs at home, superintended the farming, interviewed the tenants, and saved up money for the next assault.

C. G. Crump & E.F. Jacob, The Legacy of the Middle Ages (1951)


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