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What Was It Like For Women During the Viking Age?

The Viking Age in Scandinavian history was noted around 793 to 1066 AD. During this time, Norsemen were known to go on large-scale raiding and colonizing. While they had an image of being violent, their women had it differently.

Women during the Viking Age in Scandinavia enjoyed an unusual degree of freedom. At the time, women in their community could own property, request for divorce, and reclaim their dowries if their marriages ended.

About the Viking Age

Vikings were known to be fierce warriors and brutal raiders. In fact, they were more known for their violent behavior. But what people forget is that they were also accomplished traders who founded trade routes all across the globe. They started settlements, founded cities, and truly left a lasting impact on the local cultures of places they’ve been to. (Source: History)

Can Women Be Vikings?

According to Old Norse, the word vikingar only applied to men who went on expeditions from Scandinavia to faraway places like Europe, Russia, the North Atlantic Islands, and North America between 800 to 1100 AD. Technically speaking, women could not be Vikings.

While earlier studies theorized that Vikings traveled in male-only groups, newer research published in 2014 shows that Norse women actually joined the men on their expedition to England and other uninhabited areas like Iceland. These women were essential agents in the process of migration. (Source: History)

Did Women in the Viking Community Have Freedom?

Like many other civilizations during the time, the Viking Age was male-dominated. They did the fighting, hunting, trading, and farming. While the women were in charge of cooking, caring for the home, and raising the kids. These gender roles were evident in Viking burials found by archeologists; the men were buried with the weapons and tools, while women were buried with their needlework, jewelry, or household items.

But what was remarkable was the fact that women during the Viking Age enjoyed an unusual amount of freedom at the time. Women were allowed to own property, get divorced, and even reclaim their dowries when their marriages ended.

Families would often negotiate the marriages while the women were between the ages of 12 and 15, but they had a say in the arrangement. If she wanted to get a divorce, all she needed to do was call a witness to her home and declare so in front of them.

Even if the man was considered the head of the household, the woman played an active role in managing her spouse as well as the home. Norse women were respected and had full authority in the domestic area, especially so when their husbands were out on an expedition. If the man dies in the unfortunate event, his wife will take over his role as the head of the household permanently. (Source: History)

Were There Women Warriors During the Viking Age?

There are not many records that mention the role of women in warfare. But, during the Byzantine era, Johannes Skylitzes, a historian, recorded women fighting with the Varangian Vikings in a battle against the Bulgarians dated 971 AD. Saxo Grammaticus, a Danish historian in the 12-century, wrote that communities of shieldmaidens dressed like men and devoted their time to learning swordplay and other war skills. (Source: History)

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