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The Change of Women’s Lives
HIS 103 World Civilizations I (AFF1238A)
Instructor: Steven Brownson
October 15, 2012

Women's lives, roles, and statuses changed over various early world history eras and culture areas in many ways. Ancient Persia, Paleolithic, Athens, Mesopotamian and Roman eras were all different in very unique ways. The Paleolithic era treated women fairly and were treated equally. During the Neolithic era women were not treated fairly. She was the daughter of her father or the wife of her husband. Women rarely acted as individuals outside the context of their families. Those who did so were usually royalty or the wives of men who had power and status.” (oi.uchicago.edu, 2010) Athenian women were not treated fairly either almost as if they were not even a citizen. “Laws forbade women and children from participation in political, judicial, and military affairs.”(Mahdavi, 2012) During the Ancient Persian Empire women brought more to their marriage than the men did. They could also divorce their husbands without reason and explanation. The Ancient Persian Empire is when women’s roles really began to change. Women that lived within the Roman Empire were expected to have a guardian because the Romans believe the women were not responsible enough to do things without. Although, women were still considered property, they had more options and rights as a woman. During the Paleolithic era women’s roles were to gather food, and provide meals for their families. The Paleolithic women had a decent lifestyle compared to other eras. “In the Paleolithic era women were treated equal to men. Women gathered wild grains, fruits, nuts, and melons. Using digging sticks and carrying bags, they also collected edible roots and tubers, as well as bugs like termites, caterpillars, and locusts. Though meat was especially prized, modern anthropologists have found that in foraging society’s women contribute more calories to the general diet than do men.” (Mahdavi, 2012) In the case of Paleolithic women they brought more nutrition to their families which helped them get through their days, with a nutritional food supply. “Foraging peoples paid close attention to their physical environment. They timed their movements to coincide with seasonal migrations of animals and the growth cycle of the plants they gathered. Women's focus on gathering plants probably led them to care for and begin to cultivate the plants they selected to eat.” (Mahdavi, 2012) “Gender roles were defined, as men generally hunted and women gathered, but they were not hierarchical. Because of the importance of women as gatherers and as child bearers, and perhaps also as healers, it is thought that the social status of women was equal to that of men in early human populations.” (Mahdavi, 2012) Being equal to men was a very rare thing during early history eras. Not a lot of women were thought as equals. Once humans settled into permanent agrarian environments, gender roles became more defined—women tended crops and raised children, while men hunted large game and herded cattle—which set the stage for a less egalitarian society. (Mahdavi, 2012) While men and women in hunting-and-gathering groups often did (and do) have different roles and duties, overall it has been surmised that strict gender delineations and hierarchies of power and equality were not in evidence until after men and women had built cities and settled into routines vastly different than had been the norm from about 200,000 BP until ca. 7000 BP. Women and men who hunted and gathered as a way of life had little need for official politics— no mayors or emperors—because groups were small and generally self-regulatory. Also, if game animals and edible flora were close to an encampment, both sexes often hunted and gathered. But women who were pregnant or with small children certainly could not track or attack, making men more necessary in those scenarios, a dynamic compounded not by horticulture (the...
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