10 Weirdest Historical Facts about Being a Woman

Historically, it has always been so that men occupy the leading positions in society, whereas women at different times have been considered almost as second-class citizens. Moreover, a woman could not take part in public life, get an education or a decent payment for her work. Women’s lives were often reminiscent of a horror movie.


1. Gender as the reason for death in infancy

In ancient Athens, it was very common for a couple to leave a baby girl to die in the desert. “Everyone grows a son, even the poorest man, – a Greek writer wrote – but gets rid of a daughter, even despite being rich.” In Rome, it was also common, especially in poor families. In a letter from a lower-class Roman man to his pregnant wife the husband wrote: “A daughter will be too burdensome for us, we simply don’t have the money. If it’s a girl, we’ll have to kill her.” Even in Egypt, where women had relatively equal rights with men, the babies from poor families were often thrown away to die.

2. Period days as a taboo

Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote: “When a woman has period, even milk gets sour.” He decided that menstruating women could kill the people who touched them. In Egypt, women were locked in a special building during their menstrual cycles, where other people were not admitted. The Israelis did not touch a woman during her period days and even did not touch the objects she had touched, considering these things to be “desecrated.” In Hawaii, the people who entered the hut of a woman during her menstrual period could be sentenced to death penalty.

3. Loss of virginity and death penalty

In Athens, if people learned that their unmarried daughter was sleeping with a man, they could legally sell her into slavery. Samoans had to be publicly convinced that their wives were virgins: during the wedding ceremony the Samoan tribal head would tear the bride’s hymen with his own fingers in front of a crowd to prove her virginity. In Rome, if a priestess of goddess Vesta lost her virginity at the age of 30 years, she was buried alive. In ancient Israel they did not even bother whether the woman was a priestess. Any woman losing her virginity before marriage was stoned to death.

4. Every man is an alpha male

In Rome, slaves were commonly used for intimate pleasures. Having sex with a slave could cause trouble only if the man slept with someone else’s “property” without asking for permission from the woman’s owner. Even in this case, it was not considered rape, but was classified as property damage. The women, working in certain professions, could not file a complaint of rape, no matter what happened to them. They were not only prostitutes, but also waitresses and actresses.

5. Bride kidnapping

In some parts of China, people had been kidnapping brides until the 1940s. In Japan, the last registered bride kidnapping case occurred in 1959. In Ireland, the same habit was widespread in the 1800s. Even the Bible describes stories about how entire villages were massacred and the women were taken away from these villages as wives.

6. Infanticide

Killing feeble babies was practiced not only in Sparta. In almost every country, when a woman had a deformed baby, it was killed. In Rome it was prescribed by law. If a Roman baby was born with a disability, the mother had two options: she could either strangle it or abandon it. Historians believe that every fourth Roman baby did not survive the first birthday.

7. A silent woman

In ancient Greece and Rome, women were forbidden to leave the house without a male escort. When husbands were visited by guests, women were forbidden to speak or sit at the table, they had to retire to their rooms not to confuse men with their presence. In Denmark, naughty women who openly expressed their anger or disobedience, were locked in a device, called “a violin for the shrew.” It was a wooden block in the shape of a violin, where the woman’s hands and head were placed. This is how they were sent onto streets for people to see their shame. In England, it was even worse. A woman had to wear a metal mask with sharp teeth and a bell.

8. Death to all adulterers

If a married woman dared to sleep with another man, she was doomed. Under certain circumstances a Roman man had the right to kill his wife, if he saw her in bed with another man. Even the Puritans, who colonized America, treated the murder of adulterers with condescendence. In medieval times, cheating sinful wives were not just killed – they were forced to suffer. There was even a special device for these cases, which was called “breast ripper”. This torture was intended for the women accused not only of adultery but of self-performed abortion as well.

9. Killing the wife after her husband’s death

Until the 19th century, a woman in India, whose husband had died, was expected to voluntarily follow him to the funeral pyre to be burned alive. Sometimes, during wars, women would do something like that even before their husband died. For example, if a city was besieged and was about to fall, the women burned themselves alive with their children. The husbands just watched it, and the next morning they went to fight, their faces smeared with their wives’ ashes. Those women killed themselves in order to give their husbands a little extra motivation.

10. The uneasy fate of a woman

Even before the beginning of modern history, the earliest marriages were extremely “one-sided”. After examining the prehistoric remains in Africa, archaeologists came to an interesting conclusion: men lived all their life around one place, and women were coming from other locations. This means that even cavemen had unequal relations, and new wives moved into the home of their husband. It is also very likely that these women were abducted from other tribes.

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