Position of Woman

Justin McCarthy
Chapter II | Start of Chapter

The position of woman was very high—was indeed equal to that of man, except where actual service in arms and the necessity of tilling and defending imposed duties on men which could not in the ordinary course of nature have become a task for women. The wife was the equal of her husband, the sisters of the brothers, and there was throughout the whole social system a respect and even a romantic reverence for womanhood more appropriate to the age of chivalry than to the days before the Gospel of Christianity had been preached to the world. Whatever Ireland may have derived from the teachings of the East, she had accepted no ideas involving the subjection of women. The Brehons were the official and hereditary judges and promulgators of the laws. The Brehons, like the Chieftains, were elected to their positions in the commonwealth. The people lived in houses or huts built of wood or made of wattles, and even the palaces, if they may so be called, were only constructions of wood, painted over with coloured and ornamental devices. The wealth of the country consisted in its agricultural productions, its minerals, its fish, and its cattle, horses, pigs, and sheep. Some of the Irish Septs showed much skill in the erection of fortresses for their defence, and displayed reverence for the dead by raising great monuments to their memory.