lunes, 1 de agosto de 2011
Women and horses
It was not uncommon for a girl to learn her father's trade, and for a woman to share her husband's trade; many guilds also accepted the membership of widows, so they might continue their husband's business. Under this system, some women trained in horse-related trades, and there are records of women working as farriers and saddle-makers. On farms, where every hand was needed, excessive emphasis on division of labour was impracticable, and women often worked alongside men (on their own farms or as hired help), leading the farmhorses and oxen, and managing their care.
Despite the difficulties of travel, it was customary for many people, including women, to travel long distances. Upper-class wives frequently accompanied their husbands on crusade or to tournaments, and many women travelled for social or family engagements; both nuns and laywomen would perform pilgrimages. When not on foot, women would usually travel on horseback or, if weakened or infirm, be carried in a wagon or a litter. If roads permitted, women sometimes rode in early carriages developed from freight wagons, pulled by three or four horses. After the invention of better suspension systems, travel in carriages became more comfortable. Women of the nobility also rode horses for sport, accompanying men in activities that included hunting and hawking.
Most medieval women rode astride. While an early chair-like sidesaddle with handles and a footrest was available by the 13th century and allowed women of the nobility to ride while wearing elaborate gowns, they were not universally adopted during the Middle Ages. This was largely due to the insecure seat they offered, which necessitated a smooth-gaited horse being led by another handler. The sidesaddle did not become practical for everyday riding until the 16th century development of the pommel horn that allowed a woman to hook her leg around the saddle and hence use the reins to control her own horse. Even then, sidesaddle riding remained a precarious activity until the invention of the second, "leaping horn" in the 19th century.
It was not unknown for women to ride war horses, and take their part in warfare. Joan of Arc is probably the most famous female warrior of the medieval period, but there were many others, including the Empress Matilda who, armoured and mounted, led an army against her cousin Stephen of Blois, and Stephen's wife Matilda of Boulogne in the 12th Century. The fifteenth-century writer Christine de Pizan advised aristocratic ladies that they must "know the laws of arms and all things pertaining to warfare, ever prepared to command her men if there is need of it."