Historically, women and men’s roles in the society were never dictated nor were their lives ever noticeably disconnected until the 18th and 19th centuries with the emergence of social stratification and the industrial revolution. Before the industrial revolution, both men and women were treated and seen to be equal and women, as well as men, were involved in leadership and governance roles. As far back as the 2nd Millennium B.C, women were known to have ruled Egypt.
Cleopatra was the most famous queen of Egypt and she ruled from 51BC to 30BC . She was highly ingenious and a clever politician who brought good tidings and peace to her country split by war. Hatasi Hatshepsut was the long-serving pharaoh of Egypt, she ruled for 20 years she is considered as one of Egypt’s most triumphant pharaohs and she is remembered today for her magnificent Obelisks at Thebes.
Women were also engaged in the military campaigns and during the middle ages when most landowners throughout Europe were fighting wars wives had to stay back to defend their families and estates through great aptitude and skill. Women also owned lands, the Spartan women-owned two-fifths of the lands in the 4th BC and in imperial Roman times women controlled more properties and wealth than men. Eleanor of Aquitaine’s wealth was much larger than those of King Louis VII of France when she married him. Daughters during this period were allowed to inherit wealth from their fathers so as wives inherited wealth from their husbands. Men and women were working together particularly in commerce and land trades that accelerated across the European continent in the 12th century. In England a majority of the population relocated from the countryside to town side and women became associated with men often as a trade or business partners. Women were known to regularize trade and set standards as they belonged to powerful and exclusive guilds which some of them developed into family strongholds that were to survive until the Industrial Revolution and divisions of capital and labour.
Women in the western world gained immeasurable respect usually approaching reverence as they shared in all the harsh tasks of a primitive society as well as shouldering the main responsibilities in bearing and rearing the children. The advent of Industrial Revolution informed new beliefs and attitudes concerning all aspects of life especially towards male and female roles in the family. These new expectations concerning the female and male roles informed the beginning of a new lifestyle that started evolving between the 18th and 19th centuries in England as an effect of industrialization. The Industrial revolution brought about social stratification. The exciting fortunes and prospects of the middle-class brought about separation of sexes. Studies overtime has shown that patriarchy evolved as a natural condition of the separation of sexes.
Men began to work in factories and trade centres and their wives were left at home to cater for the family and community. Women now had to adopt roles as full house wives. In the middle class setting, new roles accorded women as they were seen as nurturers and guardians of their family and community. Some theorists, for example, Simon de Beauvoir and Engels had argued that the advent of private property led to the subjugation of women.
2.3 Cultural Heritage: Women Food and the Preservation of Cultural Identity