Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Guilds for Women

Women weaving
Guilds in the Middle Ages seemed to exist for every conceivable occupation (except, perhaps, midwifery). What about women? Were guilds open to them as much as to men?
Although women were accepted as members and sometimes founded guilds, they seldom held office, just as it was rare for a woman to serve as churchwarden of the parish church, a reflection on women's subordination in the medieval world. [Women in England in the Middle Ages, by Jennifer Ward, p.186]
Women were able to participate in numerous trades in the Middle Ages, sometimes supporting their husband's business, often being in business for themselves. The Paris tax registers for the early 14th century list several craftswomen whose craft was different from their husbands. Women were often brewers and bakers; more often than not, women ran the local food service businesses.

That does not mean, however, that women were relegated to domestic trades. In early 15th century Wurzburg, for instance, records show over 300 building site workers were women. records of medieval women in jobs include:
brewer, laundress, barrel and crate maker, soap boiler, candle maker, book binder, doll painter, butcher, keeper of town keys, tax collector, shepherd, musician, rope maker, banker, money lender, inn keeper, spice seller, pie seller, woad trader, wine merchant, steel merchant, copper importer, currency exchanger, pawn shop owner, lake and river fisherwoman, baker, oil presser, builder, mason, plasterer, cartwright, wood turner, clay and lime worker, glazier, ore miner, silver miner, book illuminator, scribe, teacher, office manager, clerk, court assessor, customs officer, porter, tower guard, prison caretaker, surgeon and midwife. [link]
Almost the only occupation in which we do not find the presence of women is that of blacksmith, whereas the textile industry was well represented.

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