The Vikings lived in large family groups. Children, parents and grandparents lived together. When the eldest son took over the family farm, he became the head of the family and responsible for the well-being of them all. He had to provide the food the family needed.
His wife, the lady of the household, had to see to it that the food lasted during the long, dark winter. She made butter and cheese, dried and smoked meat and fish for storage and she was also expected to know about herbs for making medicine and care for the sick and wounded. The farm animals were also her responsibility and when her husband went trading, went Viking, or hunting she also ran the farm in his absence. In rich families she would have servants and slaves to help her. As a visible sign of her authority and power the lady of the household wore the keys to the food chests at her waist.
When the men travelled abroad raiding, trading, or had gone hunting or fishing, the women were in charge of the work on the farm. This lead to that the women played an important part in society.
Girls were married at the age of 12 -15. They were then expected to run a household. Let’s hope they got some help from the older women in the family! The marriage was agreed between families and was regarded as an alliance between the two families for mutual help and protection. The girl herself had little to say in the matter.
The bride brought cloth of linen and wool, a spinning wheel, a loom and a bed as part of her dowry. Women from richer families could also have jewellery of silver and gold, farm animals and even farms as a part of their dowry. Everything she brought into the marriage remained her personal property and did not fully become part of her husband’s estate. Her children would in turn inherit this property as part of their maternal inheritance.
The woman did not fully become part of her husband’s family when she married. She continued to be a part of her own famil…