Young Girls from the Middle Ages

Peasant Life

Poor FarmIf you were born into poverty during the middle ages, life would have been very difficult. Many children born in poor homes did not live to see their second birthdays. Food was scarce for the poor and many children were malnourished. When a young child died, he or she was often buried in the yard, much like we bury family pets today. Parents did not really become close with their children because it was unlikely that they would live very long.

Medieval BreadmakingIf you were poor and survived, you spent much of your time working for the leige lord. This was the person who owned the land where you worked. Wealth was measured by land ownership, not money. So if you didn’t own land, you worked for those who did. Life was very hard for poor people. Play for the lower classes would not have been common. Girls sometimes played with dolls called poupees. The word “doll” didn’t come into the language until the 17th century. They also played with rattles and noise makers made out of beans or seeds and gourds. Poor children might have participated in outdoor play, with games similar to tag. They only played once their work was finished, which didn’t happen often since most poor children worked long, hard days.

Houses were, at most, shacks and villages had ten to sixty families living in hut-shaped shacks with dirt floors and no windows. People had great fear of the dark and many of the fairy tales we know today grew out of the fears of these people. Wolves were feared, like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. Trolls were also believed to have lived in the woods.

Rural FarmIf you were poor, you probably only had one or two pieces of clothing. Poor people bathed about once a year. They did not know about germs and the benefits of keeping clean. It was expensive to heat water and there were usually no wells or running water near the homes. Poor people wore cloth shoes in good weather and wooden clogs in bad weather. Only the nobility had leather shoes. A chatelaine was a chain or ribbon a girl wore around her waist or neck that held a pair of scissors, a thimble, and a needle for sewing. Pins were very expensive because of the fine metal work required to make them. Often times, a poor woman would have to save for years to be able to buy one.

ChimneyThe chimney was not invented until many years after Gisela, Adela, and Isabelle lived. Fires in the house were built on a stone hearth and the smoke was vented through a hole in the ceiling. Many homes burned because indoor fires got out of control.

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