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Fact 1: Viking women had traditional jobs in Viking society

In Viking culture, men did the fighting, hunting, trading and farming. Whereas women did the cooking, raised the children and looked after the household.

We know this as Viking men were buried with their weapons, shields, swords and tools, while the women were buried with jewellery, needlework and household items.

This showed that women played a more traditional role in Viking society. Yet, there is also evidence to show that Viking women had more freedom than many other women in the world at the time!

Fact 2: Viking women had some unusual freedoms

Although Viking women played a more traditional role in society, they did have some freedoms that were unusual for women at the time.        

Historians have found that Viking women had slightly more rights than other women in their day, especially when it came to property and marriage. They were able to own property and ask their husband for a divorce. When a marriage ended, women were also allowed to take back their property and money.

Sometimes, a Viking man would leave his wife and family and settle in another country. The woman would be allowed to demand a divorce and remarry so that she didn’t get lonely.

Another freedom that Viking women had is that they had a say in who they married. Just like in many other cultures at the time, Viking marriages were usually arranged. This means that a husband was pre-selected for a bride, usually by the bride’s family.

Viking women were between 12 and 15 when they got married, and their family would usually negotiate the marriage for them. However, Viking women were able to decide which man they wanted to marry.

For every Viking marriage, a contract would be created that agreed to divide up the couple’s possessions and property equally if they wanted a divorce. Although women had some freedoms, they were not allowed to be involved with politics, and they were not allowed to receive inheritance.

Fact 3: Viking women were a powerful part of the household

In Viking culture, the man was usually the ruler of the house. However, the woman also had full authority of the household when the man was not there.

If the man of a household was to die, it would be his wife’s job to take on his role as ruler of the house and she would run the family farm or trading business completely on her own! Historians have found many Viking women that were buried with a ring of keys. This is believed to symbolise their power as household managers.

Fact 4: Lots of Viking women made and sold clothes

Historians have found that a lot of Viking women would spend their time making clothes!

They would make clothes in traditional Viking styles, such as cloaks and dresses. They would also give clothes eye-catching patterns and designs, sometimes decorating them with art, runes and weapons.

Some Viking women were so good at making clothes that they became special textile workers in their community, making clothes for people to wear, sell and trade.

Women were allowed to sell the clothes they made at the market, showing that they were quite entrepreneurial!

Fact 5: Some Viking women were warriors!

Viking men were traditionally the ones to go into battle, however, there is some evidence to show that women sometimes went to battle too!

Historians have found records that describe women fighting alongside the Varangian Vikings during a battle against the Bulgarians in 971 AD.

These women learnt war skills such as sword play, and they even dressed up just like men! They fought alongside the male Vikings during the Battle of Bravellir, and 300 of them are said to have held the field. These women were known as “shieldmaidens”.

Warrior women also played an important part in Viking mythology. The Vikings believed in legendary warrior women called Valkyries that would select brave soldiers from the battlefield and carry them to the afterlife in Valhalla.

The word ‘Valkyries’ means Choosers of the Slain!

Let’s watch a video from about some Viking female warriors…

Fact 6: Viking women traveled all over Europe

Historians used to believe that it was just Viking men who travelled throughout Europe on the Vikings’ famous voyages. However, more recent evidence shows that women would join the men on their travels!

Viking women would especially join the expeditions when they were planning to settle in a new country such as England, Iceland, the Shetland Islands or the Orkney Islands. Women were an important part of moving to a new country as they helped the Vikings populate and thrive on their new settlements!

Extra Resources has some great information about women in Viking times

Life In Norway has some good resources too

And Ancient History has some information about legendary Viking female warriors

It’s Quiz Time!

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#1. How do we know Viking women had traditional jobs?

#2. Could Viking women say no to an arranged marriage?

#3. How old were Viking women when they got married?

#4. What happened to a Viking woman when her husband died?

#5. Who did the Varangian Vikings (including women) fight in 971AD?

#6. What were Viking women known as when at war?

#7. What are legendary mythical warrior women known as?

#8. What does the word Valkyries mean?

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