The difficulty of tracing any well defined line of development during this period is very well recognized by all competent authorities. This is not difficult to understand when the chaotic political conditions of Europe is taken into account, following closely upon the disruption of the Roman Empire, and extending down to the time of the first Crusade. Nevertheless, a number of elements were present and potent in giving woman whatever she may have during this sterile period—sterile, it must be remembered, with respect to a highly organized social order. The most prominent of these elements or forces were Christianity, feudalism, and chivalry, in their actual relations with domestic life; and in order to measure the peculiar influence of these institutions, it is desirable to invite attention to them separately.
Social and Political Changes
From the fall of the Roman Empire till the death of Charlemagne, 814 A.D. various attempts were made to reestablish the empire, but the warring of petty Germanic kings and conflicting ambitions of rival aspirants were very generally effective in defeating its restoration. During this period, a great revolution had taken place in the condition, social and political, of the dominions of the Franks. The dynasty of the Merovingians, by its own discordant character and weakness, had fallen, and given way to another race of kings. Charlemagne gave to the royalty of the Franks a new character; he possessed in a high degree the Roman spirit, and for a while he brought back into existence the Roman Empire, with all its powerful centralization. But Charlemagne’s influence and power of government belonged to himself, and disappeared after his death, and thus this event was followed very quickly by utter disorganization throughout his vast dominions. Under the terrible invasions of the Northmen, which soon followed, not only all central power, but in a manner of all power whatever, disappeared.
Out of this confusion arose an entirely new state of society, which we know as the feudal system.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.