As the saying goes “Behind every great man, is a great woman” and without a good Norse Woman in alliance with a man, he would generally be left behind.
Norse women were expected to have many skill sets and attributes that were vital in the assistance of maintaining social structure, family life, and even the day to day running's of farms whilst their husbands were away on raids.
Life for a Viking woman was really quite good comparatively to many of the other women throughout Europe during the same time. They were treated with a lot of respect and granted many privileges. A Viking woman was able to marry, to divorce and repel any unwanted attention from a Viking man with zero tolerance.
In fact if a Viking man was to kiss or try anything more with a Viking woman that was not willing, then he would stand to be fined or face more serious punishment. In this way the Viking woman was very well protected and highly respected in old Norse Scandinavia.
This in turn, shows that Norsemen were obviously far more civilized than the stigma attached to them as being nothing but blood thirsty rapists. Their anti-rape culture amongst the community was strong and punishable by death, compared to other tribes in Europe at the same time, was far less active in defilement as previously assumed.
For a woman to be successful in ancient Scandinavia she would need to have a multitude of skills used in daily life.
Cooking was one such skill, and the Viking woman would have to not only cook and prepare food, but to also manage the stock levels for the cold winters. Smoking fish and meats, making broth, baking bread and producing ale were all skills that would help a Viking woman keep a household running successfully.
Additional skills like cloth making, fabric work and sewing and stitching were all necessary too. The Viking woman would get her husband to buy fabric and would make and cloth the family in the traditional clothing style. Some of these items would be made to assist and/or protect the husband whilst at war, raiding, or exploring, helping him be prepared for all types of extreme conditions that he would most likely face upon these ventures.
Keeping the family healthy and safe was another important facet of a Viking woman’s life. While old Norse medicine was not as advanced as today, a Viking women would still make medicine, and tend to the ill should it be needed.
The responsibility and duty that was expected of Norse women would also include the managing of the farm. There would be times where her husband, or father would be away on trades or raids. The Viking woman would look after the animals and crops, or at the least manage the farm hands or slaves to ensure the farm was managed correctly.
These responsibilities were essential for not only the survival and health of the individual family unit, but paramount to the success of the Norse people in general. This level of respect was obviously at such a progressive point that even the men had realized that without the assistance and skill sets of these powerful women, they would be nothing without them.
Even though the choice a Viking woman had in regards to whom she married was not really an option, she would marry a man that was typically arranged for her by a family member, often her mother. Once in marriage however the Viking woman would have much responsibility.
The Viking woman was kept in charge of the family finances, whether it was precious metals like gold or silver, or the stock of farming or animals. She would also own the keys to the family property, typically worn around her waist.
In addition to these responsibilities, there were also Shield Maidens, renowned for their fighting skills and the ability to match many men in battle.
Without the Norsemen acknowledging the importance of having strong women amongst them, they would not have been able to expand as rapidly as they did across Europe in such a short amount of time. This was recognized by the men, brutal men known for fighting, and with an historically inaccurate stigma regarding their promiscuity, yet had a very strict anti-rape and sexual assault culture when it came to their own societal structure.
It is fair to say that the average Viking was nothing special unless he had a good Viking woman behind him, basically calling the shots and maintaining structure and order, especially when the men were away from home.
The importance of Norse women is highly underrated, and no matter how “Viking” you may or may not be, let us thank the strong women that helped the Norse become the powerful people they were.