Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guest Post from Sarah Woodbury--author of Daughter of Time

I'm fascinated by women's roles throughout history, and today I'm delighted to have author, Sarah Woodbury posting about women in Celtic Society. This topic is Sarah's passion, and that passion comes through in her post. Please read what she has to say. And also, check out her book Daughter of Time a time travel Romance.

Thank you Sarah!

Women in Celtic Society

It is a stereotype that women in the Middle Ages had two career options:  mother or holy woman, with prostitute or chattel filling in the gaps between those two. Whether we like it or not, for the most part this stereotype is accurate and the status and role of women in that era revolved around these categories.

This is one reason that when an author sets fiction in this time, it is difficult to write a self-actualized female character who has any kind of autonomy or authority over her own life.  Thus, it is common practice to make fictional characters either healers of some sort (thus opening up a whole array of narrative possibilities for travel and interaction with interesting people) or to focus on high status women. Such women may or may not actually have had more autonomy, but their lives didn’t consist of drudgery and child care from morning until night.

This is not to say that men in the Middle Ages weren’t equally restricted in their ‘careers’.  A serf is a serf after all, of whatever gender.  Men as a whole, however, did have control of women, of finances, of government, and of the Church, and thus organized and ruled the world.  Literally.

There are obvious exceptions—Eleanor of Aquitaine, anyone—but women such as she were one out of thousands upon thousands who were born, worked, and died within five miles of their home.

At the same time, within Celtic cultures, women at least had the possibility of greater personal autonomy.  In Ireland, where the Roman Church had less influence, women had a viable place both within the Druid religion and within the Celtic/Irish Church. Wales too was less subject to the restrictions of the Church.  There, women had a higher status than in Christendom as a whole, including the right to divorce her husband and societal acceptance of illegitimate children. 

The Laws of Women (part of the Laws of Hywel Dda) included rules that governed marriage and the division of property if a married couple should separate. Women usually married through contract, but elopement was allowed, with the provision that if the relationship lasted seven years, a woman had the same entitlements as if she’d been given to her husband by her kin.

My book, Daughter of Time, tells the story a young widow, Meg, who falls through time into the Middle Ages—and into the arms of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last Prince of Wales. One aspect of the book that I found very interesting to write was her reaction to the status and role of women in medieval Wales, and how a modern woman might deal with it.

Daughter of Time is available at and Amazon UK and is coming soon to Barnes and Noble and elsewhere to which Smashwords distributes. For more information about Wales in the Middle Ages, please see my web page:


CJ Archer said...

Great post, Sarah. The status of women in history makes it so hard to write strong female characters in these times. But strong women certainly existed - behind every great man and all that. Daughter of Time sounds like my kind of read, I'll add it to my TBR pile.

Bailey Bristol said...

I just finished your LAST PENDRAGON, Sarah, and know first hand that you are extremely adroit at drawing Celtic women in new and unexpected ways. It seems as though you are so "at home" with the history of that time that you are able to imagine the unique ways in which women of intellect might have endeavored to paint their lives in more purposeful ways. Thanks for some great reads!

Sarah Woodbury said...

Thanks, Bailey!