Peasant Women

        Most people during the Middle Ages were peasants. Nine out of ten people would be peasants. A peasant lady however was considered worthless, as she was a woman and a peasant. She would have very little choice in her life on earth. She could not marry without the consent of the King or the Lord. The children of this marriage were not called her family but instead her "litter." Her life was difficult but she believed it was only temporary, as God would promise her a better life in heaven.


        In the Middle Ages, around the 1300's, the peasant women wore different types of clothing then we do now. On their head they would wear a scarf like veil that would go over the head to help them keep warm. An apron would cover their dress and would be used especially when working to keep their underclothes clean. The clothing material for the dress was often rough and itchy. It would often create rashes or sores where it was next to the skin. The kings and the queens wore much softer layers of clothes as they could afford it. The colors of the materials were either dull red, gray, or brown. Other brighter colors were reserved for royalty. For more formal occasions, peasants that were wealthier, would wear cleaner, softer and prettier clothing made from a variety of material. Peasants wore this type of clothing because it was more economical and they couldn't afford material that had been refined


        Peasants ate very simple meals. Peasants often went hungry because there wasn't enough food for them. If the harvest was bad they might even die from starvation. Occasionally grasshoppers would ruin a crop or the weather was bad or the crop didn't grow properly. The lord or king would sometimes take a greater portion of the peasant crop and this could seriously affect them as well as peasant were expected to give part of their crops to their king or lord as taxes. Depending on the king or lord, this could be a major part of their food supply. Some kings or lords were more generous than others and that would make a big difference in how a peasant would live.

        The average peasant's dinner would consist of a thick stew made from peas, beans, and other vegetables. Peasants grew most of their own herbs and vegetables because it would cost too much money to go and buy them from the market. They would also eat lots of bread with their meal. Water was unsafe to drink, therefore the children drank boiled water or ale, which was watered down beer. For special occasions peasants would sometimes eat small portions of meat, especially rabbit, that they caught or pork that they raised. Food was seen as a necessity and not a luxury with variety.


        The average peasant lived on the land owned by a king or a lord. The landowner would supply a meager house for the peasants in trade for work and part of their crops. The king or lord would also offer protection from outlaws. Peasants made their homes from materials that were close by. They used sticks and straw woven with twigs and daub clay that was mixed with horsehair. They often used manure to hold the houses together. The roof was usually made out of thatched straw and reeds. The peasants lived in the same house for their entire life unless there was a tragedy that would destroy it. Peasants usually didn't have a chimney in their houses because of the straw roof. Since they didn't have a chimney they made a circle of stones on the floor for a fireplace. Usually it was very dark, smoky, and damp inside their homes, as there was no way for the smoke to get out. The smoke would sink deep into the walls of their house to help keep rodents and insects away. They also felt that the smoke would help to keep their clothing deodorized. However, this thick smoke would burn their eyes and many peasants suffered from lung problems because of the smoke.

        Inside their homes, peasants didn't have much furniture as a house was not built for luxury. They were even known to build their house over a few tree trunks so that they had permanent chairs, tables, and stools inside their house. Peasant homes usually only had one window and it was usually covered in potato sacks to keep drafts and winds out. For light, they used candles made out of animal fat. During the winter, part of the house sometimes was used for a barn separated only by a wall making their homes even smaller.

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Copyright © 2002 P. Milz, C. Fotheringham, and Galileo Educational Network Association