Many of these eroded rights have already been discussed in the previous section but this does illustrate that these changes might not (wholly) be put on the Normans but more so on the influence of the Church. The idea of the relative freedom of the Anglo-Saxon women is not supported by everyone. Legal documents Thompson states that legal documents often explicitly refer only to men; in some cases the pronouns used are ambiguous and may refer only to men or to both men and women. Women are usually only discussed as such where sexual crimes are concerned or where their marital or religious condition is relevant. Women are not perceived as having independent status; rather they are defined by the position and wergild… of the man with whom they are associated. (2)
There is something to be said about the lack of representation of women concerning legal documents, however, the latter remark about the status and wergild of the man is somewhat unfair as people of similar ranks often married and their child whether male or female would also be defined by the rank of their parents. Then there is the case of landownership which is often stated to be one of the key elements that shows the status of the Anglo-Saxon (noble) women. Of that Stafford states that “The raw statistics of Domesday, for example, suggest a different picture of England on the eve of the Norman arrival. No more than five per cent of the total hidage of land recorded was in the hands of women in 1066” (225-6). This shows that though legally women had the rights to own land that there was little land that was actually in hands of women. It is possible that in the middle or earlier Anglo-Saxon period this percentage was higher; however, without evidence for it this cannot be explicitly stated. Added to this fact is that there were Anglo-Norman who owned land, though they were often women and there were many restraints on this ownership, the difference is not that clear cut in the reality that these women lived in. When looking at women in these different time periods it is important to keep in mind that it cannot be wholly contributed to one influence or the other. Anglo-Saxon England consisted of different kingdoms, meaning that the laws in one kingdom might not be the same in another kingdom as such saying that women as a whole were better off in Anglo-Saxon England does not necessarily convey the whole truth or any truth. Another important thing to keep in mind is that while the laws might say one thing individual circumstances, actions, and (lack of) choices greatly influence in how far these laws would affect the lives of women in these time periods or in any time period. The statements of the law did not necessarily mean the beliefs of society or elements of society.