Gender and Labor Roles in Medieval England and France
ca mid-1200s C.E.
Source: Bentley, Jerry H. and Herbert F. Ziegler.
Traditions and Encounters
Male serfs typically worked three days a week in the fields of their lords and provided addition-
al labor services during planting and harvesting seasons, while women churned butter, made
cheese, brewed beer, spun thread, wove cloth, or sewed clothes for the lords and their families.
Some women also kept sheep and cattle, and their obligations to lords included products from
Women who lived in the countryside continued to perform the same kinds of tasks that their
ancestors tended to in the early Middle Ages: household chores, weaving, and the care of
But medieval towns and cities offered fresh opportunities for women as
well as for men.
In the patriarchal society of medieval Europe, few routes to public authority
were open to women, but in the larger towns and cities, women worked alongside men as
butchers, brewers, bakers, candle makers, fishmongers, shoemakers, gem smiths, innkeepers,
launderers, money chargers, merchants, and occasionally as physicians and pharmacists.