Friday, 14 May 2010
Monday, 10 May 2010
- It is accepted that women did take part in crusading activities although there is some debate surrounding whether or not they took part in actual combat. It is fairly certain that women supported the crusaders in a manual capacity perhaps by dispensing drinks, washing, taking care of the wounded or even killing prisoners. It is also thought that there were also women who where prostitutes whether or not they were a separate group or some fulfilled both roles is unclear. There are Muslim reports of women fighting on crusade, although they report that the women were only recognisable as women once their armour was removed. Nicolson suggests that it is likely that some non noble women did fight alongside their sons and husbands particularly in the chaos of battle.
- The lack of sources on women is a general problem for the medieval period as women writers were few, however it is likely that the lack of sources concerning women on crusade is due to a sense of embarrassment. It is likely that the participation of women was played down by chroniclers as women were heavily associated with sin and it was thought that their sinful presence could discredit the crusaders and in turn the crusades in which they took part. This was clearly an unattractive prospect when trying to initiate further crusades and also for the reputation of Christians and the perception of them to future generations.
- In instances where women are written about as taking the cross their behaviour is compared to that of men such as the case of Margaret of Beverley who was described as a woman who ‘feigned’ to be like a man. They are often described in an auxiliary role, one where they had been drafted when there were not enough men to fight rather than being presented as viable crusaders in their own right.
- The reduction of female participation in the crusades has been attributed to the change in the organisation of warfare from a private and domestic activity to a public and professional one. The suggestion is that women being more associated with the home or ‘private sphere’ and men the worldly or ‘public sphere’ led to a natural division whereby women were gradually excluded from crusading activities as they became more professionalised.
Like all history this is a developing area of research.....
Nicholson, Helen, ‘Women on the Third Crusade’, Journal of Medieval History 23 (1997), 335-349
Maier, Christoph T., ‘The roles of women in the crusade movement: a survey’, in Journal of Medieval History 30 (2004), 61-82
Copyright © 2010 Elaine Hunter
Sunday, 9 May 2010
If he gives me money to buy meat to roast,
Be sure I will reckon him more then it cost;
And so you may live with your husbands most brave
And they ne'r the wiser what money you have.
SAith Sarah my husband is of such a mind,
He calls me to reckon what money's behind;
When I bring it home, he will tak't in his hand,
And then he will ask me in what it doth stand:
Then I make a lye, and tell him something more,
Or else this cross Knave would beat me out of door
For he I not allow me a penny to spend,
But I care not for two pence if I meet a friend.
Why should we be curb'd so, hang care, let us drink,
We'l have t'other pot what e're our husbands think
If when we come home they upon us do frown,
we'l give them good words & bring their anger down
Pretending our Burthens hath tired us sore,
As if we were ready to fall on the Flore:
And so by that means they will patient remain,
And pitty us too, when they hear us complain. 
The women plan to use their burtherns (or ‘burdens’- referring to pregnancy) to soften up their husbands and gain sympathy to avert their anger when they arrive home penniless. As well as this the women frankly discuss their husband’s sexual prowess:
Methinks Gossip Jone you have a lusty man,
I hope he doth give you content now and than,
I'le warrant you'r merry enough when I'm sad,
I'm sure that I want what I formerly had:
My husband doth sit like a Mome all the day,
And at night in the bed he is cold as the clay;
I had rather he would go and drink a Pot or two,
And come home at night and do what he should do 
It seems that increasingly throughout the seventeenth century there was a propensity towards associating women’s conversations with idle or negative talk. This is shown in other ballads one states ‘When gossips meet, ther's too much prate’ prate meaning idle, profitless, or irrelevant chatter, and similarly another states ‘she and Gossips meet and Babble’. Most damningly is William Gouge’s Of Domesticall Duties from 1622 which informs the reader that ‘when tatling Gossips meet, their usuall prate is about their husbands, complaining of some vice or other in them’. It is the exclusivity and mystery of women’s friendships and birthing communities in the early modern period which led to an association of women with ‘gossip’.
 Anon, ‘The Gossips meeting, or, The Merry market-women of Taunton tune of The Parliament of women, or, Digby's farewel’,1674, EEBO, www.eebo.chadwyck.com/home [accessed 7 May 2010]
 Anon, ‘The Gossips meeting’
 Anon ‘An excellent new medly. To the tune of the Spanish Pauin’, 1628, EEBO, www.eebo.chadwyck.com/home [accessed 7 May 2010]
 Thomas D’Urfey, ‘Collin's walk through London and Westminster a poem in burlesque’, 1690, EEBO, www.eebo.chadwyck.com/home [accessed 7 May 2010]
 William Gouge, ‘Of domesticall duties eight treatises’, 1622, EEBO, www.eebo.chadwyck.com/home [accessed 7 May 2010]
Figure 1 my own
Figure 2 Painting by Samuel Van Hoogstraten,17th C, from Web Gallery of Art
Copyright © 2010 Elaine Hunter