Abstract and Keywords
Women's experience in the towns of medieval Europe was framed by the nature of the urban economy and the legal system in place. Women operated everywhere within a patriarchal system, but the limits and possibilities of their economic participation varied across time, marital status, social status, family ties, and training. Elite women managed households, but in some cities they can be found investing in trade and industry, engaging in financial operations, and exploiting real property. Middling women engaged in sales of luxury goods and agricultural commodities, in real-estate transactions, in partnerships and apprenticeships. Rarely did they enjoy guild membership, but they contributed to medieval artisanal industry. Poor women, domestic servants, prostitutes, and slaves were everywhere the disadvantaged in medieval cities, though some, such as hucksters, could overcome the makeshift transient economy of which they were a part. Gender dictated the fate of urban women, however historical assessments might differ.
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