Back in the Kitchen

The role of women in learning and education underwent a gradual change in the Afro-Eurasian world and the Americas between the 11th and 15th centuries. As societies in Africa, Middle East, India, China, Europe, and America grew more complex they created new rights and new restrictions for women. In all regions of the world but the Middle East, society allowed women to maintain education in order to support themselves and their occupations. Women slaves in the Middle East were, however, prized on their intelligence. In Africa, women were trained in culinary arts. In India, women learned how to read and write with the exception of the sacred verses of the Vedas. In China and India, Buddhism helped women gain ground in maintaining education in. Buddhism allowed and encouraged women to join religion and education as equal to men. While in China a few women were Buddhist scholars, the Neo-Confucianists excluded women from the politics and educational system to prevent the power of women in government. Upper class women commonly had more opportunities for higher education then the lower class. Women in Europe and America lived more freely and openly than in other societies. European upper class women were able to read and write, become apprentices in towns, and perform family medicine, and some were caught with English Bibles. Noble and urban women had better chances of education than the common and rural women. In America, likewise everyone attended school, and the aristocratic women schooled to be priestesses. On the other hand, upper class Muslim women in India were covered by veils and had less access to educational material than the commoners. Women began to dominate the professional working world in culinary works, textiles, arts, medicine, and as slaves in almost all six regions. Considered physically inferior to men in all societies, women never occupied areas of heavy work, military combat, or long distance trade, but these professions did not require much education. Women of the Middle East, Europe and America participated in business and trade as the acceptance of women in the guild system grew, while in the other regions they worked at home. As women became more needed in society and economy they also began to dominate the household. In the Middle East, China, and America, they received and inherited properties. With their new economic prevalence, the women of the era were able to own their own property and pass private ownership onto their children. They were also increasingly prevalent in religious practices which gave them a valuable source for education which came with more rights and restrictions. Islam viewed women as individuals and allowed them to inherit properties, and divorce husbands. Similarly, church in Europe offered women equal rights as men in the view of Allah. Restrictions were made at the same time. In the Middle East, divorced women had to wait three menstruations before marrying another man; however this was practical by allowing time to determine if a woman is pregnant with another man’s child. In China, women were pushed by society and sometimes forced to practice foot binding. So, what this did was completely restrict the movement of women outside of the house. In Europe, women were restricted from leading in church services. They generally gained specialized jobs using their education moving them outside of the household to work. By apprehending knowledge, medieval women increased their importance, occupations, rights, and restrictions. Bringing home the bacon and cooking it, medieval women increased their overall worth and took an important step towards their future domination over men.