You may think we’ve come a long way baby, relative to women’s rights, but in reality, we’ve been playing catch-up. Seems we have nothing on the Celtic tribes of the Iron Age.
During the Iron Age ( approximately 800 B.C. to 43 A.D.) Celtic women enjoyed limitless power and freedoms. They were held in high esteem and treated as equals by their male counterparts. Flaxen-haired, fierce and strong, Celtic women donned war paint, wielded weapons and fought alongside their men. They were rulers, priestesses and military leaders, able to assume positions of authority. No occupation was beyond their reach.
Marriage was viewed as a partnership, meant to be mutually beneficial to both parties. Celtic women could own and inherit property independent of their husbands. They could conduct business without the consent or involvement of them as well. They benefited from great protection under the law.
Unfortunately, all that changed with the Roman Invasion in 43 A.D.
When the Romans conquered the Celtic territories, they overturned the rights of women- and bound them by their patriarchal laws. These proud, competent and independent women could no longer hold the powerful positions to which they had become accustomed. Instead, as was customary under Roman rule, wives were regarded as the property of their husbands, no different than cattle or sheep. It must have been a bitter pill to swallow.
Now fast forward to the early 19th century. In America, it wasn’t until 1835 that women could own property in their own name once again. However, under the same law, married women could not manage or sell their property, unless their spouse was incapacitated. In 1862, the Homestead Act offered women the chance to acquire up to 160 acres of federal land in their own name. There was a catch however. You had to be single, widowed or divorced. That’s right, if you were married, well, you were out of luck. A marriage contract in the 19th century meant signing most of your rights away.
It wasn’t until 1900, that every state in the Union passed legislation granting women the right to own and sell real and personal property in their own name.
In January 2016, women were granted the right to assume combat roles within the military for the first time, coinciding with yet another first. Not one, but two women are seeking to be elected to the highest office in the country, President of the United States. Hmm, seems like everything ancient is new again.