Saturday, October 16, 2021

Men's things and Women's Things in the Medieval World

While this below is probably most interesting to those exploring the Medieval world, I think it has larger interest.

This is how these folks saw the world. This is the men's sphere and the woman's sphere.
Notice how the 16th Century woman got to keep the "books that women tend to read".


We still have this today. Imagine the moveable goods of your own household taken out into the yard and neatly sorted as to what belongs to who.

(Yes. I know this "whom" of which you speak, but I do not choose to acknowledge him.)


 Anyhow, from

From Brill & The Hague Academy of International Law


According to Magdeburg Law (Magdeburgisches Weichbild), a deceased husband’s wife was to pass on to his male descendants his sword, his best saddled horse and best armour, as well as his pulvinar bellicale “military bed,” which included a bed, two pillows, two sheets, a tablecloth, two bowls and a towel. The hereditary property of a wife that was to be received by her daughter, and otherwise by her closest female relative, was much more extensive. Although in Łaski’s Statutes these were defined as being only her sheep, dishes and the food in her home, in the judgments of Magdeburg Law, translated into Polish in 1501, these were described with much more precision as: the woman’s silver and gold jewellery, cups, chalices, spoons, cupboards (in Latin armarium), wash-basins, cushions, sheets, pillows, tapestries, carpets for covering benches (In Latin bancalis) and beds and hanging on walls, tablecloths, towels, quilts, clothing, headscarves, chests, candlesticks, yarn, beer brewing kettles and books ‘that women tend to read,’ as well as a pot for melting wax, a mirror, scissors and other items commonly used by women. In 1567, Bartłomiej Groicki, a notary at the High Court of Magdeburg Law in Krakow, described the Weichbild as follows:

These things belong to the woman’s movables [gerada] according to Magdeburg Law: all the woman’s clothing, gowns and cloth cut for the clothing the woman typically wears and has power over; all gold and silver that is woven for the woman’s clothing; all rings, buttons and pins, buckled belts, silk cloth, bracelets and necklaces, bed coverings, sheets, bath towels, curtains, lace curtains, beds, head-rests, pillows, table-cloths, bowls, brewery vessels to be leased, a wash-boiler, crates with lids, linen, washed and raw wool; books that women usually read; geese, ducks, sheep that are herded out to pasture.

                                Jakub Wysmułek
                                History of Wills, Testators and Their Families in Late Medieval Krakow


  1. I'm guessing we're not talking peasants here.

  2. Some things on the list are specific to the powerful -- the war horse and saddle. Most would be owned by various ranks of peasant. The geese, ducks, and sheep. The raw wool. The wash basins.

    Peasants were, like, 85% of the population. Some were prosperous. And for those who didn't own a lot, what they owned mattered. Laws like this protected them.

    If Margaret Brewer, card-carrying peasant, owned a brewing kettle, her bully of a brother-in-law couldn't make off with it. Margaret's daughter Mary gets it because the law says so.

    Inheritance law helps establish the foundational principle that the law applies to everybody. A rich woman with gold and silver or a peasant woman with a pile of raw wool . . . both of them have rights under the law.

    (Applying the Rule of Law to everybody is still a work in progress.)