These young women, who were presented to monarchs, betrothed to fading aristocrats, or whose fathers scrounged for money so they could walk across a stage and curtsy to a small-town mayor or rodeo clown, were united by an unresolvable quandary: marriage was the only respectable career for women, and the best...
Poor Elizabethan women were not educated, although wealthy and aristocratic Elizabethan women were. While noble ladies frequently had house attendants to assist with duties and family welfare, poorer women did it alone until their female children were old enough to help. Women worked at home, preparing food for the family and sewing clothes for themselves and their children.
Elizabethan women had no political role; they could not vote or stand for office. But they did enjoy some freedom, especially rich women who lived in spacious houses with fine furniture. These women went out into society and often took an active part in entertaining guests. Sometimes they even went on adventures with their menfolk!
Women of all classes had little opportunity to learn new skills because there were not many jobs available for them to fill. If they wanted to work, there were only a few options open to them. They could stay at home and run the house, look after the children, or go out to work. Most women spent their time doing one or more of these things.
Rich women sometimes managed companies and offices using staff officers called "women managers". But most women had no access to money or power and so could do nothing apart from follow the example set by their husbands or fathers.
There were two types of women in England at this time: those who lived with their husband or father and those who didn't.
Although noble women had an important role in the Middle Ages, they could not make important choices. Their job was to assist their father in running the property. While her father or husband was fighting, the "lady" became "lord of the manor." If required, the ladies may even go to battle to preserve their properties. When their husbands or fathers died, they would often lose their own titles because there were no other relatives around to protect them.
During peacetime, they would live on the estate with their family. They would help their parents and older brothers and sisters with the chores at home and would learn how to manage a household. Sometimes they would even take care of small children while their mothers worked outside the home.
Noblewomen were expected to be virtuous. They were taught from an early age that lust was wrong and that having many lovers was disgraceful. However, this doesn't mean that they didn't have any freedom. They had more freedom than most women of today's world. For example, they were allowed to work outside the home and travel alone as long as they kept safe.
Some women found ways to get out of their marriages. For example, if their husbands sold all their belongings and went to war, then they would be free to stay out of marriage until both parties agreed to another contract.
But there were also cases where couples were forced into marriages.