The BBC just released data on the best place in the world to be a woman (spoiler: it’s Iceland) in which the UK and America didn’t even make the top 10. Surprise surprise.
(You can find it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-24650912)
Before you consider moving to Iceland, why not consider moving back in time? In case this is an option open to you, I have prepared some thoroughly researched* information for you, so you know what to expect.
(*mainly wikipedia and historical TV dramas on HBO)
Ancient Rome (Augustan Era c. C1st bce – C1st ce)
If you were a woman in Ancient Rome and you had a bit (actually, quite a lot) of money, basically the only thing you couldn’t do was vote. Power was officially forbidden to women, but influence was almost limitless if you were rich, resourceful and sexy (as I am sure, reader, you are), and Ancient Rome produced such enduring powerful women as the Empress Livia (pictured above: she’s fabulous, but she’s evil), and most famously Cleopatra. A reliable historian friend even told me that the Romans had discovered a contraceptive plant so effective that they consumed it to extinction, which explains why everyone has so much sex in I, Claudius and Rome and yet there are so few babies about. There you are.
Just, if you go back in time there, hope you’re not poor.
Early Medieval Britain (c.500-1000)
Irish law codes from this time forbid women from giving legal testimony (boo), but if you were a woman and you owned more stuff than your husband, basically he was your bitch and had to do everything you say (hooray), hence the famous “pillow-talk” argument at the beginning of the Irish epic the Tain Bo Cualinge where they count all their stuff. (Wikipedia it here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Táin_Bó_Cúailnge)
Also, if it’s your home county and you’re the woman, you own all your husband’s stuff and own him legally, so he can’t make legal contracts without your permission. Hooray again!
“But I don’t want to own my husband’s stuff,” you say. “I want to be free, and to have my voice heard in society, and be a valued member of the community.”
Well, tough. All you get is his stuff.
High Medieval Britain (c.1000-1300)
Good news, women: as of the c12th it’s your consent, not your parents’ consent that is required for you to get married! Bad news, women: this is all nominal, and your parents will still probably make you get married at 11. Sorry.
Unless you’re Eleanor of Aquitaine (pictured above, lookin’ sexy), you’re not going to have much fun living in this period. Only way to get your hands on any power is to marry a king, and make sure he dies while your son is still underage. In this case: Jackpot. In all other cases: sorry ladies.
Time travel tip: be Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Late Medieval Britain (c.1300-1500)
Sorry folks, it doesn’t get much better. Courtly love is pretty big, but that’s basically just minstrels sucking up to you so that your husband will give them some money. Remember that husband you married at 11 in the high medieval period? Yeah, that’s still happening. Sorry.
If you were powerful, you were a witch (looking at you, Elizabeth Woodville!), and if you didn’t want to be a witch you had to do as you were told. There were some pretty badass ladies up to stuff, but no one was very polite about them in public (except that wiley old Margaret Beaufort because she was all saintly like a woman should be).
Same story as the high medieval period really – best to be a widow. Or, late-medieval special move: a religious fanatic! Either that or a witch. Just make sure no one ever tries to weigh you against a duck.
This is where my historical knowledge runs out.
But I hope this has been amusing and (relatively) informative.
My pick would be Ancient Rome.
How about you?