Women and Cows – Ownership and Work in Medieval Sweden
Ethnologia Scandinavica, Vol. 38, 2008
In this paper, I will be looking at butter making as a woman’s occupation. The general hypothesis is that, when this task gained significant economic importance in the Middle Ages and demanded increasing skill over time, it influenced attitudes towards women and their status in society. The critical aspects include not only the abundance of the work, but also its economic significance and the skills it required. In a slave system, the slaves from whom greater skill is required enjoy higher status, even though they are all subject to slavery. Here butter production as a female activity requiring skill is the subject, but other spheres of female activity can be discussed using similar research on, for instance, textile production, child birth, child rearing, etc. Some modern gender oriented research is also going in this direction of interpretation.