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Marie Hogebrandt @melindrea
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So, who wants a thread on the role of women during the viking era?

Too bad, you'll get it anyway ;)

Okay, so let's start with the key thing: Most of the times, girls were married off at age 12-15, generally to cement alliances. They were expected to know how to run a household.
However, there are a lot of suggestions that the marriage was rarely consummated until she was at least 16-20ish, so that the first few years were to get familiar with her new family.
Depending on the wealth of her family, she would at least bring with her some things. Maybe just cloth and similar, but if she was wealthy, what she brought into the home could be farm animals or even a farm.

This was her property, and her children's inheritence.
As I noted above: she was supposed to know how to handle a household and to make sure that there would be food and clothes for everyone.

This meant that she was the one keeping track of what was in stock, and everything went through her.
Okay, so, that's the basics. What if her husband was lazy, beat her, raped her, refusing to work for the household or in other ways mistreated her and/or her children?
She'd divorce his ass!

She needed at least one witness, and to be proper she should state twice that she divorced him: once at the door, once at the marriage bed.
Of course, the sagas tell a different story.

Most cases of divorce there only has the woman saying it once. ... occasionally after stabbing her soon-ex.
Now, it's important to know that there seems to be some kind of law involved, because there's suggestions that the husband would get to keep her property if she didn't divorce him for good reasons.
Of course, depending on who was judging, a good reason could be that he refused to share his concubine with her, or he didn't avenge his brother-in-law's death.
My favourite is from Gisli's saga, where Gisli's killer asks for hospitality from Gisli's brother-in-law and Gisli's sister.

The sister does not want, but her husband overrules her.

So she stabs Gisli's killer and divorces her husband on the spot.
Now back to where they still had a lot less rights than many do today: They did not have full rights like men, and they were assumed to need a man's protection.

While they could own property, they were not fully free.
This did, however, mean that hurting a woman was seen as cowardice.

Even when houses were burned down, the tradition was to allow the women and children to escape, if they wanted to.
Of course, what I am talking here are -free- women. The vikings raided and carried away women as well to sell as slaves and the presence of concubines suggests non-consensual relations.
CN: SA
There are, however, two oddly-shaped pieces of that puzzle:

1: Contemporary (English) source suggest that Vikings were less prone to rape during raids than others
2: While raping a thrall woman carried less punishment than a free woman, it was punished
While women could bring grievances to the law, only men could be judges, only men could speak at the gatherings.

A woman was expected to bring her grievances to the closest male relative, to let him avenge her, rather than to avenge the wrongs directly.
I suspect (and it's a theme I often use in my stories) that a woman without male relatives would fend for herself, and avenge herself.

This is supported by women being in charge when the men were off raiding.
Finally, let's touch on a law that intrigues me: unwanted touches.

First, even unfree women had some measure of protection, though a thrall would only be repaid for you hitting her if you slapped her hat off to show her hair.
This is from a law that was written down early 1200. Context includes that she'd have a skirt down to her feet.

The money went to her, not to her owner (if thrall) or husband (if married) or father (if unmarried)
If you take a woman about the wrist, the fine is half a mark. If you take her about the elbow, the fine is 8 örtugar. If you take her about the shoulder, the fine is 5 örtugar. If you take her about the breast, the fine is 1 öre.
If you take her about the ankle, the fine is half a mark. If you take her between the knee and ankle, the fine is 8 örtugar. If you take her above the knee, the fine is 5 örtugar.
So, the deeper under the skirt/closer to the breast, the lower the fine. Basically, if she doesn't want you to touch her, she'll let you know at the ankle/wrist, and is already owed the highest fine.

But even as he works his way up to her thigh she can say no, and he had to stop
In case this was useful and you are in a comfortable economical position, maybe buy me a coffee?

I'm working on viking-era stories!
Y'know what, let's go with bonus content from Guta Laws (the same that I quoted re: unwanted touch).

I've mentioned sexual assault. It was up to the assailant to prove that he didn't rape the person.

If she was raped without witnesses, but someone heard her cries? Witness.
Anyone she told within the first day, especially if she knew his name? Witnesses.

If she doesn't know his name, but sees him later, he has to bring 12 witnesses to vouch that he was not there.

But if she became pregnant and can bring forth 12 witnesses, he's still guilty.
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