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View Diary: What are you reading? Feb 8, 2012 (81 comments)

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  •  Dear Resident Expert (4+ / 0-)

    How realistic is it to believe that a young unmarried woman in the 12th C., living in England and France would have become a blacksmith, specializing in sword making?

    I read somewhere that the 12th C. women were more independent and "liberated" than they were for centuries after in Europe, but weren't guilds powerful, controlling admission (therefore livelihoods) to skilled trades and crushing opposition or defiance to their will. Is that wrong?

    Thanks in advance for any light you shed.

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    by Limelite on Wed Feb 08, 2012 at 10:13:14 AM PST

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    •  This is getting late for me (my real expertise (5+ / 0-)

      ends in about the 9th century), but it seems highly unlikely.

    •  not the Resident Expert, but.... 8-) (0+ / 0-)

      Probably not very (realistic). Actual steel and iron working takes a LOT of upper body strength, that women simply do not usually have. This is NOT sexism, I've hefted my husband's hammers and helped him move anvils; pumped the bellows, helped hold work in the right part of the fire.

      Support work and administration (supervising and helping train apprentices), and light fabrication (like several mentions of women farriers, gold & silver workers) appear to have existed.

      There are a small number of indications that widows were sometimes allowed (probably after petitioning the chapter via a male relative) to continue operating their husband's smithies in their own right. I would not be very hopeful about a young unmarried woman managing to find an official apprenticeship position, although she may have been able to manipulate some training from blood relatives, like a father or uncle.

      What have I found... the most familiar period illustration is this one from the Holkam Bible, England, 1327. Quite a bit of discussion as to whether or not it IS what it LOOKS LIKE.

      The fairly recent (1991) English medieval industries has some interesting detail, pp 186+, talks about women running smithies when their husbands were away, and what types of support work women did regularly at smithies.

      I'm not sure I've ever seen this young lady before, who appears to be doing something with a pair of tongs and a piece of stock, in the fire, while others hammer... (about a third of the way down the page, Sunday April 24, 2011)

      The person holding the hammer and sword in this illustration from Medieval Industry ed. by Crossley, appears to me to be female, judging from the length of skirt (to the ground), the wide sleeve (pushed back to the elbow), and the covered hair

      Very interesting article here includes this:

      The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths in London lists sixty-five "brethren" and two "sistren" in its 1434 charter.

      "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

      by chimene on Wed Feb 08, 2012 at 09:34:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I know a female blacksmith (0+ / 0-)

        She inherited the forge from her father, who inherited it from his father, and so on and so on. I'm pretty sure she was trained to it from a very young age, which allowed her to develop some very impressive upper arms, let me tell you :)

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