The Role of Women During the Crusades
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Keywords: crusades women, women in crusades, women in war
The Crusades were a series of campaigns led by the Catholic Church. It took place in the Holy Land which was taken over by the Muslims. The Catholic Church urged the Catholic countries in Europe to send men and recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims. The final crusade was the 9th crusade in the Middle East which concluded the entire campaign (Jones vii). After the wars were over many countries were struck with military problems. The effects of the Crusades weren't all negative some aspects were positive like the prosperity of economic. Economic was flourishing during this time because all the ships had to pass through Italy. Therefore the entire tradesman came from the Crusades or the Muslims. Therefore the Italian Renaissance was ignited from the effects of the Crusades (Rosenthal, Joel T.). The effects of the Crusades weren't only to the men in society, but also to the women. The Crusades created hardship for many common families in Europe and especially Women. Women during this period had to lose their identity as women and go out and fight, they also had to do the role as a father and as the leader of the family, and due to the absence of the husband they took up arts and culture to fill up the missing gap in their lives without their husbands.
Women had to go out and fight also in the Crusades to fill up for the dead soldiers. Although women are physically weaker than men they still went out to war. Both sides of the war, Muslim and Christian women both went out to fight. They weren't usually the ones fighting out in the battlefield but protected the castle or the base from being attacked. Their effects were being like a defensive wall so that the Muslim soldiers could not overcome a base while the Crusaders were fighting. A problem aroused despite the good job the women were doing. When women appear while looking at men for a long time, the sexual desires of man appear, so the women who were the washer women and the cooks became prostitutes. So after the 2nd crusade the Church prohibited women to go out and help fight in the battles ("Crusades-Encyclopedia"). During their battles they found out that a major problem with the soldiers was their lack of hygiene. So after the 3rd crusade only washer women were allowed to go to the battlefield to take care of the lice of the soldiers. The only reason they were allowed to go was because they were very old of age and none of the soldiers had sexual attractions to them ("University of Michigan"). Women who went to war were not only common women but also royalty. The powerful queen Eleanor of Aquitaine also participated in the war. Even though she was a queen of two countries and despite she was very important in Europe she led 300 female crusaders during the second crusade. The second crusade like the first was a complete failure and the blame went to Eleanor and her women soldiers. The blame was put on her for the supply train she needed to support here soldiers. In reality though, it wasn't her fault but the poor strategies and lack of moral from the men leaders. She was a perfect example of what women could accomplish later in the future (Jones 81).
When men from a family went out to the crusades it usually lasted for a couple of years so the women took over the family and accomplished the jobs of the father. When the husband was around it was easy for the women since her jobs were very limited, but when the husband went out to the crusades women decided to send messages to their husbands. During busy times it was highly unlikely that the message would be properly sent so the importance of the women increased greatly. The women had to deal all sorts of problems which arose within the house and in society. Due to the lack of men the women was considered the head, temporarily. When the husband died during battle the wealth and the land would go to the women, therefore socially women became stronger (Free Articles Directory). In those times women's jobs were childbearing, marriage, and housework. Due to the absence of men women became socially active. Royal women for example managed their own courts and solving problems such as knights trying to take over the manor using the absence of the husband as an advantage. Despite the gender difference women still fended off men. Peasant women had to do strenuous physical activities to raise and feed the children. The ones who couldn't do these usually left all the material aspects behind and became religious. Due to being a woman they were forbidden from being a priest, so they became spiritual advisers, visionaries, or writers (Rosenthal, Joel T.). This showed that despite the fact that the men weren't with them they were able to do things which men could do. This chance became a spark for the women in the renaissance period later in time.
Since men were out due to the crusades, women were affected by the absence of the man in the family, to feel the missing gap in life; women took up arts and culture. One aspect of culture was literature. Literature in medieval Europe increased greatly especially in the urban areas. During the medieval times all the books and church scriptures were written in Latin. Therefore women had a chance to learn to read and be educated (Rosenthal, Joel T). To replace the absence of the husbands many women became Trobairitz. A trobairitz is a patroness of literature. They composed lyrics, poems and they recited to the people. They managed to copy books in different languages ("Vanderbilt University | Nashville, Tennessee") .The second generations of the patronesses of literature were raised as patronesses of art. After teaching art to the second generation the reputation of the women enhanced (University of Michigan). The idea of being a patroness was not only open to normal people but to royalty also. Many queens became patronesses such as Eleanor of Castille. She was a queen in 1290 of England and was an active patroness of vernacular literature. The books she copied and wrote were about romances and bibliographies on saints (Google Docs). Another royalty was Marie de Champagne who was the daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was an example of the offspring of many medieval women who raised their kids to be patronesses of the arts and cultures. She managed to write a lot of romance poetry, fables and moral tales (Fidel Fajardo-Acosta). These examples of how women became part of the male dominated society. By studying and learning women became knowledgeable which helped develop the country through culture and arts.
The crusades although were bloody wars which killed many lives of the Europeans and the Muslims it helped women develop in a male dominated society. By taking over the manors and lands of the husband they learnt skills which they could never have learnt without the crusades. One of the biggest help the women did to society was taking up arts and literature. By taking these aspects it increased the status of the women, improved the literature and arts of the medieval period. When the men were out fighting women at the bases defended the walls and tended for the sick. Although Europe was a male dominating society and prejudice against women through these effects of the Crusades women became noticeable to society. This was the beginning of equality of men and women.
Jones, Sydney. The Crusades: Biographies. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale, 2005. vii. Print.
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