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History of Motherhood: Middle Ages

  • By: Marcella Bush Trevino
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

The Middle Ages was a period of transition from the classical world of late antiquity to the Renaissance and the emergence of the modern world. Most Middle Age societies remained patriarchal and hierarchical in nature, key characteristics in shaping medieval motherhood. The position of wives and mothers varied based on location, age, social and economic status, and race, among other factors, although most women remained subordinate to their fathers or husbands. The continued spread of major religions like Christianity and Islam also had a major impact on the role of women and mothers as they shaped Middle Age cultural values and beliefs.

Major religions, such as Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam, were also patriarchal, limiting the leadership roles of women. A woman's primary function remained to marry ...

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