The Lives of Tudor Women

Life for women during the Tudor period, 1485 to 1603, was not easy. In those days, women had no legal rights.  Tudor law was not kind to women. The law was used to limit women. They didn’t have rights to inherit property. The law actually considered them the property of either their husband or father. There were even laws that prohibited them from holding jobs and laws that defined what color clothes they could wear.

Tudor women were taught from birth that they would always be inferior to men. Perversely, they were perceived to be evil temptresses with natural tendencies to corrupt men. It wasn’t just that women were the weaker sex but all women were to be blamed for mankind’s fall from Heaven. Tudor girls did not have easy childhoods. Poor girls began doing household chores as soon as they were strong enough. They had very little freedom. From birth, they were taught to obey their parents above all. The highest level of obedience was to be expected from all girls. 

Most marriages in Tudor England were arranged. Fathers would pay a dowry for someone to marry their daughter's free them of the financial responsibility. Women were considered financial burdens on their parents because they could not get jobs. In most cases, women had little say in the selection of their husbands. They were taught that their sole purpose in life was to marry, obey their husband, and populate the earth. Female singles were deemed to be worthless to the society.

Very few Tudor women were educated and most never learned to read and write. It was rare for poor girls to attend school. When they did, they learned subjects like art and music, while boys learned math and Latin. They often learned things like cooking and sewing so that they could serve their husbands and children better.

Childbearing was dangerous for Tudor women. If there were complications with the birth, there was very little that could be done. It’s not uncommon that women died during childbirth. Tudor women also suffered a high number of miscarriages and stillbirths. Yet, it was rare for someone to have only one child.

Women always wore dresses. Rich women wore gowns with layers and trains of satin or silk. They were shaped like geometric shapes rather than the shape of the body so there was always a lot of padding underneath it. Poor women wore simpler dresses with half-sleeves.


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