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During the busiest times of the year, such as the harvest, women often joined their husbands in the field to bring in the crops.

Women often participated in vital cottage industries, such as brewing, baking and manufacturing textiles.

Yet however powerful some women were in the Middle Ages, it is important to remember that the overwhelming majority were not.

Most women, even those in privileged circumstances, had little control over the direction their lives took.

Popular diversions for aristocratic women included religious activities, hunting, dancing and playing games.

Pregnancy and childbirth were risky in the Middle Ages: complications that would today be considered relatively minor, such as the breech presentation of the baby, could be fatal for mother and child.

However, the Virgin Mary was a contrast to this negative image: as the mother of Christ, she was the channel through which Christians might be saved.

She was sometimes described as the 'second Eve', as she was seen to have made up for Eve's sins.

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Most women, however, were married, usually as teenagers.The Caesarean section, known since antiquity, was normally only performed if the mother was dead or dying as it was inevitably fatal for her.Labouring women were attended by midwives, whose understanding of childbirth was for the most part attained through practical experience rather than formal training, though by the later Middle Ages the profession began to be formally recognised.Just as rural women helped with their husbands' work, urban women assisted their fathers and husbands in a wide variety of trades and crafts, including the production of textiles, leather goods, and metal work, as well as running shops and inns.According to the Bible, Eve was created from Adam's rib and, having eaten the forbidden fruit, was responsible for man's expulsion from paradise.

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