The role of peasants in the management of society and realm in the Middle Ages was very limited. Only occasionally did prosperous peasants play a part in the regional framework on behalf of the central regime or the feudal lord, or participate in elections to local or national representative assemblies. But there was local organization in villages. Meetings and court sessions were held, and office-holders and functionaries were elected by the village assembly or nominated by the lord of the manor. 1 There were also certain functionaries who were neither appointed by the lord of the manor nor elected by the peasants, like the parish priest (who was not officially appointed by the seigneur, or at least not by him alone) or the village notary.
Women fulfilled none of these functions, and their part in the local assemblies was limited. They could not hold the office of village notary, scribe of the manorial court or parish priest. The meetings where attendance of village landowners was compulsory were attended only by unmarried or widowed female landowners. Married women who owned their own land were represented at the meeting by their husbands, although the decisions taken were binding on all landowners without exception. In the small village of Cravenna, in Piedmont, for example, it was decided in 1304 that the lord was not entitled to transfer or sell lands on which peasants resided without the consent of all the villagers, both men and women. But this applied only to women who were widowed or unmarried and were householders. 2 And even those women who attended assemblies and court sessions could not fulfil functions
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Publication information: Book title: The Fourth Estate: A History of Women in the Middle Ages. Edition: Revised. Contributors: Shulamith Shahar - Author, Chaya Galai - Translator. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 220.
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