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Even though there was an unmarried woman on the throne in Elizabethan England, the roles of women in society were very limited. The Elizabethans had very clear expectations of men and women, and in general men were expected to be the breadwinners and women to be housewives and mothers.

On average, a woman gave birth to a child every two years, but as a lot of babies and children died from sickness, families were not always large. Childbearing was considered a great honor to women, as children were seen as blessings from God, and Tudor women took great pride in being mothers. Elizabethan society was patriarchal, meaning that men were considered to be the leaders and women their inferiors. Women were regarded as "the weaker sex", not just in terms of physical strength, but emotionally too.

It was believed that women always needed someone to look after them. If they were married, their husband was expected to look after them. If they were single, then their father, brother or another male relative was expected to take care of them.

Many women in this period were highly educated, like the Queen herself, Mildred Cecil (wife of William Cecil) and Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. Women were not allowed to go to school or to university, but they could be educated at home by private tutors. Elizabeth was tutored by the famous Elizabethan scholar Roger Ascham.

Women were not allowed to enter the professions i.e law, medicine, politics, but they could work in domestic service as cooks, maids etc, and a female painter, Levina Teerlinc, was employed by Henry VIII and later by Mary and Elizabeth respectively. Women were also allowed to write works of literature, providing the subject was suitable for women: mainly translations or religious works.

Women were not allowed to act on the public stage or write for the public stage. Acting was considered dishonorable for women and women did not appear on the stage in England until the seventeenth century. In Shakespeare's plays, the roles of women were often played by young boys....

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Women's History Magazine


  1. jo oliver said...
    It would certainly not have done for me to be born during this era. I would have surely been beheaded;) lol.
    Auron said...
    Well i thought they were the 'good old days' lol :P
    Athena Muggwump said...
    Yeah. I would have been beheaded for ignoring my brother, writing about anything but religion, and becoming a lawyer. LOL I don't do any of them, but if I was in that situation I would!

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