Women of the Viking Age Were Low-Key BossesAugust 18, 2018
At some point in your life, you’ve probably been asked, “If you could go back in time, what time period would you want to live in?”
Ladies, this is a challenging question for us. Yes, the dresses of the Victorian era were beautiful, but was it a fulfilling lifestyle? Forget about the Greco-Roman times. Togas are cool, but we’d rather not be stuck at home and out of politics.
You know what era would be pretty chill to live in as a woman, though? The Viking Age (793-1066 AD).
Viking women were powerful.
Let’s rephrase, since technically speaking, women can’t be Vikings. Viking, or Vikingar, is an Old Norse word that was used to describe men who sailed from Scandinavia in groups to engage in the activities of raiding and trading in Britain, Europe and the East.
But how did we start digging into the lives of women of the Viking Age? None other than a highly informative (though probably false) tumblr thread that told of mistreated Viking women cutting off a certain part of the male anatomy.
If the rumor was out there, we needed to learn more…
Like in many traditional civilizations, typical gender roles existed, and Viking society was male dominated. For example, men were buried with weapons and tools, while women lay alongside household items and jewelry. However, in 2017, researchers at Stockholm and Uppsala Universities discovered a Viking Age grave that held the remains of a decorated female warrior. The finding was the first evidence that women held high-status positions in Viking culture.
The study, which was published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, notes women “were able to be full members of male dominated spheres,” during the Viking Age. So, grab your swords ladies, badass female Viking warriors existed.
Aside from fighting alongside men as a female warrior (which is already pretty cool and has us basically sold), compared to other civilizations and periods of history, women of the Viking Age had a good deal of other freedoms.
According to the History Channel, women could own property, manage the household when her husband was away, and while there doesn’t seem to be evidence of any “junk chopping,” women could divorce their husbands, and there were laws against unwanted advances.
To divorce her husband, a woman would call witnesses to her marriage bed and declare that she had divorced her husband. And then, get this? Property was divided. Yes, equality! Gray Goose Law (not the vodka, but laws that governed early Iceland known as Grágás) had provisions about unwanted advances and attention and listed penalties for offenses ranging from kissing to intercourse.
We’ll leave you with BBC’s story of a powerful Viking woman: The daughter of a Norwegian chieftain who married a Viking man. When both he and his son died, she took charge of the family fortune and organized a ship to take her and her granddaughters to Orkney, Faroe and Iceland. Like a total lady boss: Her husband dies and she just picks herself up, hops on a boat and is one of the four most important settlers of Iceland.
Hopping in the time machine right now.