Gender Roles: Viking Women

Viking Age Scandinavian women enjoyed a tremendous degree of freedom when compared to the Viking women settlers of Iceland and Greenland. Unlike the Viking settlers who depended on gender roles (dividing keeping the land vs keeping family), Scandinavian women were able to own property, request a divorce and reclaim their dowries if their marriages started to take a turn for the worse.

And if their husbands died, women were expected to permanently take over their husband’s roles as the providers of their households. As such, they were able to obtain economic opportunities that was rarely offered to contemporary women in other parts of Europe. Some women were even traders, warriors, and farmers.

There is evidence of women taking on the role of the warrior. Though rare, Byzantine-era historian Johannes Skylitzes recorded on History.com that women fought alongside a group of Vikings in a battle against the Bulgarians in 971 AD. A 12th-century Danish historian described female Vikings as “communities of warrior women as shieldmaidens who dressed like men and devoted themselves to learning swordplay and other warlike skills.”

Most of the information we know about the Viking warriors comes from the literature or various and nearby communities. There are several accounts of female warriors rolling around on the Viking raids, who are known as Valkyries. In myth, Valkyries are fierce warriors who raise the souls of fallen warriors to Valhalla.

The most common natural hair colors a Viking man or woman were brunette, red, or black. Blondes were actually pretty rare. Those born with blonde hair were considered attractive and more desirable. Both men and women used a soap with high quantities of lye to strip pigments from their hair to appear more blonde. It has even been documented that lightening their hair helped manage head lice, a nice bonus of this cosmetic trend.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.