Lemurian City of Ladies

A Lemurian City Built in Memory of Christine de Pizan

Archive for the ‘Women’s Work’ Category

The Work of Gypsy Women

with 8 comments

Gypsy women traditionally used what nature provided for many of their crafts. They made creels and baskets woven of reeds, brooms from twigs and branches, and pegs carved from wood. They sold or traded them for food and other items, like old clothes. The men and children joined in the making of these things, for the more you could make the more you could sell.

Old clothes, collected on a cart or traded for pegs, were a rich source of handiwork for the women. Cut up into strips, they made rugs; patched together they made blankets; or they could be cut down and the best parts used to make clothing for the children.

They also made toys for their children, stuffed dolls and animals, spinning tops made of wood and string, hobby horses, skipping ropes and other simple items. Gypsy children, being self sufficient, also made their own toys out whatever they found lying around – a bicycle wheel and a stick made a fine hoop.

Gathered together round the campfire, the women would weave, stitch or carve, and chat each other about family matters mostly. The gypsy society was a very close one, and anything outside the tribe concerned them but little.

The day always began with starting the fire, often from the still warm ashes of the previous night. Gypsy women were adept at starting fires even with damp wood, although latr on they would use Primus kerosene stoves, and gas stovs in the caravans. But the communal fire remained an important feature of gypsy life.

Gypsy women kept their small home very tidy, and would air blankets and rugs by hanging them over bushes and branches. A line would be strung up from caravan o tree, or between the caravans, for washing. In the old days this was done with a rub and rubbing board. Today you will find most caravans have at least a single tub washing machine.

Such activities were always directed by the weather, of course. On a fine day, you would see the line hung with washing that dried quickly – but in damp wet weather, the gypsies made do with what they had to wear.

In tribal life, the weather directs much of what you do – being snowed in meant huddling up in the caravan with a wood stove, Primus or home made blankets for warmth, and then crafts came in handy to while away the hours. Everything was utilized – even empty tin cans were cut and rolled into fantastic flowers.

Seasonal work, such as fruit picking, was a good source of income, and was pleasant enough work in the late summer and autumn months. `Dookerin’ or fortune telling was another way in which the women made money, reading cards or palms for those who believed in such things. The uncanny accuracy of their predictions was more of a testament to their sharp eyed observation of the world around them than any sixth sense.

The lives of gypsy women are not idle – their hands are always busy with work, with skills handed down from generation to generation. Their crafts are still to be found on sale at Europe’s numerous Romany fairs.

Written by Gail Kavanagh

June 16, 2008 at 12:09 am

Dancing With Ravens

with 9 comments


When I was young I sat, hands on my chin, dreaming
of being a Ballerina and dancing Swan Lake
I have come to the Lemurian City of Ladies to fulfill the
Dream of a crone
And be
The woman who flies with Ravens


and tends the Wild Gardens of Lemuria.
What is the dream you carry with you to the City of Ladies?

Heather Blakey June 14th 2008

Written by Heather Blakey

June 14, 2008 at 10:53 am

Stitches in Medieval Time

with 11 comments

“They must be careful, diligent and wise,

In Needleworkes that beare away the Prise.” 

— William Barley, 1596

“She (Mary, late Countess of Pembroke) wrought so well

in Needleworke that she nor yet her Worke shall ere forgotten be.”  

— John Taylor, 1630


Women artists in the middle ages worked with

the needle and created other artworks,

but often remained obscure.  According to this article

“Women Artists in the Middle Ages”, by Stephanie Smith

there were some odd things resulting in the “almost” disappearance

of various types of women’s works. 

It can reasonably be assumed that most women, from a young age,

would be expected to gather certain skills in order to

become viable contenders on the social marriage market. 

Even in more recent Regency

times, young women had to learn piano, to sing, to create needlework,

to sketch and mind her manners to become an eligible bride. 

Perhaps this social trending accounts for the relative obscurity of

women’s arts, as it appears a gathering of creative strings

to their bows was mandatory, and was not considered particularly special. 

However, this does not seem to affect noble women, whose names often

endured past their own lifetimes, some of which continue to be well

known today.  Perhaps it was not possible to enjoy fame

if the purse or position was not high enough in medieval times? 

Certainly the patroness of the City of Ladies, Christine de Pizan,

has endured to be closely studied in modern times,

and other luminaries like Hildegard of Bingen, refuse to disappear

into obscurity.  Perhaps a middle class woman’s stitching was

not considered remarkable enough to be lauded

beyond her time, but here are some nice examples of

medieval styles and samples of embroidery from the

Victoria and Albert Museum in London, courtesy of the

comprehensive “Medieval and Renaissance Embroidery” web site,

well worth exploring in fine detail, through the various links.

However mandatory it was for a woman to stitch, it seems a

shame to categorize this skill to the realms of the mundane.  Imagine

a gallery showing the works of Christine de Pizan, which her mother

urged her to make, albeit mostly in vain, or a decorative collar work

by a traditional housewife of her times?  Social purse or position did

not dictate innate talent, and genetics could grant the humblest woman a skill

with the needle, which would be a blessing to her, and those around her.

Some further reading and historic trending follows, in the rich resources of

Soper Lane, regarding the Medieval London Silk Women, and their

daily lives, which is worth the consideration of valuable women’s work.

(copyright Imogen Crest 2008.)

(Above quotes courtesy of Whiteworks online.)

Written by imogen88

June 1, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Noble Women at Work

with 9 comments

“The joy you give me is such that a thousand doleful people

would be made merry by my joy.”  – Beatritz de Dia, trobairitz.


Further exploration on the theme of the Trobairitz

and what she traditionally did,

brings inspiration in the following link

from Wikipedia,

detailing sample music from the mysterious

Comtessa de Dia, whose rare ancient composition can

be heard here, interpreted by modern singers.  Usually

the Trobairitz was of noble birth,

as opposed to her male

counterpart.  No doubt she took her role seriously, and

delighted many a court with her

finely schooled voice and

composing skills.  To be able to witness such a grand evening

would be a treat, with the beautiful

lamenting tune echoing

off the walls of ancient abbeys or castle halls.  There is a coloured

icon medieval image of her in the attached link,

and she certainly

gives all the appearance of an accomplished noble woman at work.

(copyright Imogen Crest 2008.)

Written by imogen88

May 21, 2008 at 10:44 am

Trobairitzes – Working for a Song

with 9 comments

Expanding more on the theme of women’s work, and lesser known roles in medieval times,

brings to mind the Troubairitzes, the female version of the male medieval Troubadours.

Often, the work of these women was secondary

only in fame to their male counterparts, and not in quality.  The women’s works

had a lightness and intelligence of emotion which men might not

convey through their sung tales.  These songs often contained wise instruction

on courtly love, or served as laments, or tales of woe in song.  The style

came from the south of France, at a time when much was changing in women’s

lives, and more freedoms were gained,

as discussed in the article on women and the Crusades below.

Here is some interesting material in lyric form, on these works,

which have been reproduced for modern CD listening,

  Early Women Masters

The lyrics are quite fascinating, even by today’s standards,

showing how little has changed with the passage of time.

(copyright Imogen Crest 2008.)

(Linked material is copyright to their respective authors.)

Written by imogen88

May 18, 2008 at 10:42 am

Posted in Women's Work

Tagged with ,

Abandoned at Work and Home

with 5 comments

“Jerusalem, you do me a great wrong by taking from me that which I loved best.
Know this to be true: I’ll never love you, for this is the reason for my unhappiness…

Fair, sweet lover, how will you endure your great ache for me out on the salty sea,
When nothing that exists could ever tell the deep grief that has come into my heart?
When I think of your gentle, sparkling face that I used to kiss and caress,
It is a great miracle that I am not deranged….”

(by Anonymous singer of women’s songs)


Thanks to a brilliant essay from The Women’s World Curriculum,

“Women and the Crusades”,

at Medieval Sources Online, detailing women’s work and roles

at the time, more can be learned about the lesser known

phenomenon of men leaving their wives to tend to their

estates at the time of the Crusades.  The excerpt above from a French

song of lament, though anonymous, gives a voice to the feelings of

women at the mercy of the nature of those times.  Often, these

men did not return, communication would have been scant and

difficult, and absences could last years.  Before the real danger of

these crusades was known, women sometimes accompanied their

men, but after the devastating cost was known, there was a ban on

anyone but men attending the ravaging travels of crusades.

The linked essay also contains some great revelations, and details of

a noble lady, making her stand and “do or die choice” in the name of

protecting her estate when her noble husband was away.  Accounts of

women finding their administrative powers over their home and land

flourish in a time of great hardship, and present an odd boon to this troubled

age, which was the stretch in the reach of women’s perceived limits, showing

their full capabilities, at women’s work.

(copyright Imogen Crest 2008.)


Written by imogen88

May 17, 2008 at 8:54 am

Pens, Needles and Linens

with 15 comments

Women’s days throughout history were busy with things to do, varying with the different eras, the regions where they lived, and their family size and priorities.  The house was invariably the woman’s domain to manage.  Every day women were required to either clean or oversee the order of the home, manage the preparation of food and food sources, tend to the sewing, handwork, and often the clothing of the children.  They also managed the administrative tasks, such as writing letters, and kept up a vital chain of correspondence until it became an art. 

Often throughout history, women were and are, like a threaded needle working through cloth, weaving their words to friends and family, whether written on paper or embroidered, or just merely spoken to neighbours and others.  My grandmothers were both modest women of letters and linens, and their work lives on, handed to the generations who follow them.  Both were skilled with their hands, with thread and needle.

Imagining even a day, let alone an era, without such communication seems impossible, or without the handwork which gave women great joy.  Many modern women cherish heirlooms their mother’s mother made, or even further back.  It is the way they maintain the thread through the generations.  It is a way of hearing the wisdom of women who made their mark before them, and who then handed the needle to future women to go on with.  Here is a lovely quote, which says some interesting things about women and linens:

“White linen is the paper of [housewives], which

must be on hand in great, well-ordered layers,

and therein they write their entire philosophy

of life, their woes and joys.”

Gottfried Keller, from “Der Grune Heinrich” (1854)


The idea of women’s days being recorded on linens seems a wonderful thought, honouring all that women did or tried to do, as if their stories were imprinted on it like damask roses.  Also, this quote shows a sensitivity of the author, which likewise honours women’s work.  The linens, like the paper letters, told the stories of the households, and were often wept over, laughed at, smiled at, or used for more practical purposes.  Women exchanged linens as they did letters, respectively, using them to announce births, as much as to adorn babies heads.  Paper and fabric, the pen and the needle, were and are an important part of a woman’s day.  She used them to express herself, and share part of that self with those around her, and no doubt always will.

Quote sourced from Heather Blakey’s reference book:

“Women’s Work – The First 20,000 Years”

by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

 (copyright Imogen Crest 2008.)

Written by imogen88

May 15, 2008 at 9:09 am

Posted in Women's Work