GIRLS IN HISTORY
What was it like to be a girl in the fourteenth century?
Hard work! A peasant girl would have to:
Cook the food, brew the ale, keep the house clean, look after younger brothers and sisters, spin the thread, weave the cloth, make the clothes, mend the clothes, wash the clothes by hand in the river, milk the cow, feed the animals, fetch the water from the well, fetch the eggs from the chickens or geese, make butter and cheese, kill the animals for the pot and grow vegetables for the pot. At harvest and haymaking she would also have to help out in the fields – first the fields belonging to the lord of the manor, then her parents’ fields. Then, if she had any time left, do all the cooking-and-washing-and-babysitting that still needed to be done.
Doesn’t sound much fun? Well, some medieval women had a better time.
Take Christina of Markyate. When her parents picked a man for her to marry, she had other ideas. She didn’t want to get married to anyone! Her parents insisted that she spent the night with her new husband, so she climbed up the wall and hid behind a tapestry. When he’d gone, she ran away and lived in a cottage in the woods with a hermit. She eventually became a holy woman and never married anyone.
Or take Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II. When her husband’s affairs got too much for her, she and her lover, Roger Mortimer, had him executed and ruled England successfully together for years.
My new book ‘All Fall Down’ is about what happened to all those peasant girls when something really terrible happened to Britain – the Black Death. Nearly half of the people in Britain were killed, and suddenly everyone needed bakers and butchers and millers and blacksmiths – fast.
So a lot of those peasant girls got to do something more interesting with their lives instead …
Thank you so much for being our guest, Sally! If you’d like to learn more about the reality of girls’ lives in the fourteenth century, ALL FALL DOWN is a must-read – we’re still thinking about it here at GHB Towers; get some tissues in! – and we’ve got THREE copies to give away. To win, head over to the Competitions page, where you can tell Sally Nicholls who your favourite woman in history was. Think hard, readers – you’ve got a lot of amazing women to choose from…