A woman is a female human being. The term woman is usually reserved
for an adult, with the term girl being the usual term for a female
child or adolescent. The term woman is also sometimes used to identify
a female human, regardless of age, as in phrases such as "women's
rights". Women with typical genetic development are usually capable of
giving birth from puberty until menopause.
1.1 Biological symbol
Biology and sex
Reproductive rights and freedom
7 Culture and gender roles
7.1 Violence against women
8 Clothing, fashion and dress codes
9 Fertility and family life
11.2 OECD countries
12 Women in politics
13 Science, literature and art
14 See also
16 Further reading
17 External links
The spelling of "woman" in English has progressed over the past
millennium from wīfmann to wīmmann to wumman, and finally, the
modern spelling woman. In Old English, wīfmann meant "female
human", whereas wēr meant "male human". Mann or monn had a
gender-neutral meaning of "human", corresponding to Modern English
"person" or "someone"; however, subsequent to the Norman Conquest, man
began to be used more in reference to "male human", and by the late
13th century had begun to eclipse usage of the older term wēr. The
medial labial consonants f and m in wīfmann coalesced into the modern
form "woman", while the initial element wīf, which meant "female",
underwent semantic narrowing to the sense of a married woman ("wife").
It is a popular misconception that the term "woman" is
etymologically connected to "womb". "Womb" is actually from the Old
English word wambe meaning "stomach" (modern German retains the
colloquial term "Wampe" from Middle High German for "potbelly").
The symbol for the planet and goddess
Aphrodite in Greek is
the sign also used in biology for the female sex. It is a stylized
representation of the goddess Venus's hand-mirror or an abstract
symbol for the goddess: a circle with a small equilateral cross
Venus symbol also represented femininity, and in
ancient alchemy stood for copper. Alchemists constructed the symbol
from a circle (representing spirit) above an equilateral cross
Further information: girl, virgin, mother, wife, goodwife, lady, maid,
maiden, and widow
Womanhood is the period in a human female's life after she has passed
through childhood and adolescence, generally around age 18.
The word woman can be used generally, to mean any female human or
specifically, to mean an adult female human as contrasted with girl.
The word girl originally meant "young person of either sex" in
English; it was only around the beginning of the 16th century that
it came to mean specifically a female child. The term girl is
sometimes used colloquially to refer to a young or unmarried woman;
however, during the early 1970s feminists challenged such use because
the use of the word to refer to a fully grown woman may cause offence.
In particular, previously common terms such as office girl are no
longer widely used. Conversely, in certain cultures which link family
honor with female virginity, the word girl is still used to refer to a
never-married woman; in this sense it is used in a fashion roughly
analogous to the obsolete English maid or maiden. Referring to an
unmarried female human as a woman may, in such a culture, imply that
she is sexually experienced, which would be an insult to her
There are various words used to refer to the quality of being a woman.
The term "womanhood" merely means the state of being a woman, having
passed the menarche; "femininity" is used to refer to a set of typical
female qualities associated with a certain attitude to gender roles;
"womanliness" is like "femininity", but is usually associated with a
different view of gender roles; "femaleness" is a general term, but is
often used as shorthand for "human femaleness"; "distaff" is an
archaic adjective derived from women's conventional role as a spinner,
now used only as a deliberate archaism; "muliebrity" is a neologism
(derived from the Latin) meant to provide a female counterpart of
"virility", but used very loosely, sometimes to mean merely
"womanhood", sometimes "femininity" and sometimes even as a collective
term for women.
Menarche, the onset of menstruation, occurs on average at age 12-13.
Many cultures have rites of passage to symbolize a girl's coming of
age, such as confirmation in some branches of Christianity, bat
mitzvah in Judaism, or even just the custom of a special celebration
for a certain birthday (generally between 12 and 21), like the
quinceañera of Latin America.
The earliest women whose names are known through archaeology include:
Neithhotep (c. 3200 BCE), the wife of
Narmer and the first queen of
Merneith (c. 3000 BCE), consort and regent of ancient
Egypt during the
first dynasty. She may have been ruler of
Egypt in her own
Merit-Ptah (c. 2700 BCE), also lived in
Egypt and is the earliest
known female physician and scientist.
Peseshet (c. 2600 BCE), a physician in Ancient Egypt.
Puabi (c. 2600 BCE), or Shubad – queen of Ur whose tomb was
discovered with many expensive artifacts. Other known pre-Sargonic
queens of Ur (royal wives) include Ashusikildigir, Ninbanda, and
Kugbau (circa 2,500 BCE), a taverness from Kish chosen by the Nippur
priesthood to become hegemonic ruler of Sumer, and in later ages
deified as "Kubaba".
Tashlultum (c. 2400 BCE), Akkadian queen, wife of
Sargon of Akkad
Sargon of Akkad and
mother of Enheduanna.
Baranamtarra (c. 2384 BCE), prominent and influential queen of
Lugalanda of Lagash. Other known pre-Sargonic queens of the first
Lagash dynasty include Menbara-abzu, Ashume'eren, Ninkhilisug, Dimtur,
and Shagshag, and the names of several princesses are also known.
Enheduanna (c. 2285 BCE), the high priestess of the temple of
the Moon God in the Sumerian city-state of Ur and possibly the first
known poet and first named author of either gender.
Shibtu (c. 1775 BC), king Zimrilim's consort and queen of the Syrian
city-state of Mari. During her husband's absence, she ruled as regent
of Mari and enjoyed extensive administrative powers as queen.
Biology and sex
The human female reproductive system
Spectral karyotype of a human female
Photograph of an adult female human, with an adult male for
comparison. Note that both models have partially shaved body hair.
In terms of biology, the female sex organs are involved in the
reproductive system, whereas the secondary sex characteristics are
involved in nurturing children or, in some cultures, attracting a
mate. The ovaries, in addition to their regulatory function producing
hormones, produce female gametes called eggs which, when fertilized by
male gametes (sperm), form new genetic individuals. The uterus is an
organ with tissue to protect and nurture the developing fetus and
muscle to expel it when giving birth. The vagina is used in copulation
and birthing, although the term vagina is often colloquially and
incorrectly used in the English language for the vulva or external
female genitalia, which consists of (in addition to the vagina) the
labia, the clitoris, and the female urethra. The breast evolved from
the sweat gland to produce milk, a nutritious secretion that is the
most distinctive characteristic of mammals, along with live birth. In
mature women, the breast is generally more prominent than in most
other mammals; this prominence, not necessary for milk production, is
probably at least partially the result of sexual selection. (For other
ways in which men commonly differ physically from women, see
During early fetal development, embryos of both sexes appear
gender-neutral. As in cases without two sexes, such as species that
reproduce asexually, the gender-neutral appearance is closer to female
than to male. A fetus usually develops into a male if it is exposed to
a significant amount of testosterone (typically because the fetus has
a Y chromosome from the father). Otherwise, the fetus usually develops
into a female, typically when the fetus has an
X chromosome from the
father, but also when the father contributed neither an X nor Y
chromosome. Later at puberty, estrogen feminizes a young woman, giving
her adult sexual characteristics.
An imbalance of maternal hormonal levels and some chemicals (or drugs)
may alter the secondary sexual characteristics of fetuses. Most women
have the karyotype 46,XX, but around one in a thousand will be 47,XXX,
and one in 2500 will be 45,X. This contrasts with the typical male
karotype of 46,XY; thus, the X and Y chromosomes are known as female
and male, respectively. Because humans inherit mitochondrial DNA only
from the mother's ovum, genetic studies of the female line tend to
focus on mitochondrial DNA.
Whether or not a child is considered female does not always determine
whether or not the child later will identify themselves that way (see
gender identity). For instance, intersex individuals, who have mixed
physical and/or genetic features, may use other criteria in making a
clear determination. At birth, babies may be assigned a gender based
on their genitalia. In some cases, even if a child had XX chromosomes,
if they were born with a penis, they were raised as a male. There
are also transgender and transsexual women, who were assigned as male
at birth, but identify as women; there are varying social, legal, and
individual definitions with regard to these issues (see trans
"The Life & Age of
Woman - Stages of Woman's Life from the Cradle
to the Grave",1849
Although fewer females than males are born (the ratio is around
1:1.05), because of a longer life expectancy there are only 81 men
aged 60 or over for every 100 women of the same age. Women typically
have a longer life expectancy than men. This is due to a
combination of factors: genetics (redundant and varied genes present
on sex chromosomes in women); sociology (such as the fact that women
are not expected in most modern nations to perform military service);
health-impacting choices (such as suicide or the use of cigarettes,
and alcohol); the presence of the female hormone estrogen, which has a
cardioprotective effect in premenopausal women; and the effect of high
levels of androgens in men. Out of the total human population in 2015,
there were 101.8 men for every 100 women.
Woman nursing her infant
Girls' bodies undergo gradual changes during puberty, analogous to but
distinct from those experienced by boys.
Puberty is the process of
physical changes by which a child's body matures into an adult body
capable of sexual reproduction to enable fertilisation. It is
initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads-either the
ovaries or the testes. In response to the signals, the gonads produce
hormones that stimulate libido and the growth, function, and
transformation of the brain, bones, muscle, blood, skin, hair,
breasts, and sexual organs. Physical growth—height and
weight—accelerates in the first half of puberty and is completed
when the child has developed an adult body. Until the maturation of
their reproductive capabilities, the pre-pubertal, physical
differences between boys and girls are the genitalia, the penis and
Puberty is a process that usually takes place between the
ages 10–16, but these ages differ from girl to girl. The major
landmark of girls' puberty is menarche, the onset of menstruation,
which occurs on average between ages 12–13.
Most girls go through menarche and are then able to become pregnant
and bear children. This generally requires internal fertilization
of her eggs with the sperm of a man through sexual intercourse, though
artificial insemination or the surgical implantation of an existing
embryo is also possible (see reproductive technology). The study of
female reproduction and reproductive organs is called gynaecology.
Women's health and Maternal death
Women's health refers to health issues specific to human female
anatomy. There are some diseases that primarily affect women, such as
lupus. Also, there are some gender-related illnesses that are found
more frequently or exclusively in women, e.g., breast cancer, cervical
cancer, or ovarian cancer. Women and men may have different symptoms
of an illness and may also respond to medical treatment differently.
This area of medical research is studied by gender-based medicine.
The issue of women's health has been taken up by many feminists,
especially where reproductive health is concerned.
Women's health is
positioned within a wider body of knowledge cited by, amongst others,
Health Organisation, which places importance on gender as a
social determinant of health.
Maternal mortality or maternal death is defined by
WHO as "the death
of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of
pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy,
from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its
management but not from accidental or incidental causes." About
99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries. More than half
of them occur in sub-Saharan Africa and almost one third in South
Asia. The main causes of maternal mortality are severe bleeding
(mostly bleeding after childbirth), infections (usually after
childbirth), pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, unsafe abortion, and
pregnancy complications from malaria and HIV/AIDS. Most European
countries, Australia, as well as Japan and
Singapore are very safe in
regard to childbirth, while Sub-Saharan countries are the most
Reproductive rights and freedom
A poster from a 1921 eugenics conference displays the U.S. states that
had implemented sterilization legislation
Reproductive rights are legal rights and freedoms relating to
reproduction and reproductive health. The International Federation of
Obstetrics has stated that:
(...) the human rights of women include their right to have control
over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their
sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion,
discrimination and violence. Equal relationships between women and men
in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full
respect for the integrity of the person, require mutual respect,
consent and shared responsibility for sexual behavior and its
Violations of reproductive rights include forced pregnancy, forced
sterilization and forced abortion.
Forced sterilization was practiced during the first half of the 20th
century by many Western countries.
Forced sterilization and forced
abortion are reported to be currently practiced in countries such as
Uzbekistan and China.
The lack of adequate laws on sexual violence combined with the lack of
access to contraception and/or abortion are a cause of enforced
pregnancy (see pregnancy from rape).
Culture and gender roles
A woman weaving.
Textile work is traditionally and historically a
female occupation in many cultures.
In many prehistoric cultures, women assumed a particular cultural
role. In hunter-gatherer societies, women were generally the gatherers
of plant foods, small animal foods and fish, while men hunted meat
from large animals.
In more recent history, gender roles have changed greatly. Originally,
starting at a young age, aspirations occupationally are typically
veered towards specific directions according to gender.
Traditionally, middle class women were involved in domestic tasks
emphasizing child care. For poorer women, especially working class
women, although this often remained an ideal,[specify] economic
necessity compelled them to seek employment outside the home. Many of
the occupations that were available to them were lower in pay than
those available to men.
As changes in the labor market for women came about, availability of
employment changed from only "dirty", long hour factory jobs to
"cleaner", more respectable office jobs where more education was
demanded, women's participation in the U.S. labor force rose from 6%
in 1900 to 23% in 1923. These shifts in the labor force led to changes
in the attitudes of women at work, allowing for the revolution which
resulted in women becoming career and education oriented.[citation
War II, some women performed roles which would otherwise
have been considered male jobs by the culture of the time
In the 1970s, many female academics, including scientists, avoided
having children. However, throughout the 1980s, institutions tried to
equalize conditions for men and women in the workplace. Even so, the
inequalities at home stumped women's opportunities to succeed as far
Professional women are still generally considered responsible
for domestic labor and child care. As people would say, they have a
"double burden" which does not allow them the time and energy to
succeed in their careers. Furthermore, though there has been an
increase in the endorsement of egalitarian gender roles in the home by
both women and men, a recent research study showed that women focused
on issues of morality, fairness, and well-being, while men focused on
social conventions. Until the early 20th century, U.S. women's
colleges required their women faculty members to remain single, on the
grounds that a woman could not carry on two full-time professions at
once. According to Schiebinger, "Being a scientist and a wife and a
mother is a burden in society that expects women more often than men
to put family ahead of career." (pg. 93).
Movements advocate equality of opportunity for both sexes and equal
rights irrespective of gender. Through a combination of economic
changes and the efforts of the feminist movement,[specify] in recent
decades women in many societies now have access to careers beyond the
Although a greater number of women are seeking higher education, their
salaries are often less than those of men. CBS News claimed in 2005
that in the
United States women who are ages 30 to 44 and hold a
university degree make 62 percent of what similarly qualified men do,
a lower rate than in all but three of the 19 countries for which
numbers are available. Some Western nations with greater inequity in
pay are Germany, New Zealand and Switzerland.
Violence against women
Main article: Violence against women
A campaign against female genital mutilation – a road sign near
Burning witches, with others held in Stocks
A young ethnic Chinese woman from one of the Imperial Japanese Army's
"comfort battalions" is interviewed by an Allied officer.
The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women
defines "violence against women" as:
any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to
result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women,
including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of
liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
and identifies three forms of such violence: that which occurs in the
family, that which occurs within the general community, and that which
is perpetrated or condoned by the State. It also states that "violence
against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power
relations between men and women".
Violence against women
Violence against women remains a widespread problem, fueled,
especially outside the West, by patriarchal social values, lack of
adequate laws, and lack of enforcement of existing laws. Social norms
that exist in many parts of the world hinder progress towards
protecting women from violence. For example, according to surveys by
UNICEF, the percentage of women aged 15–49 who think that a husband
is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain
circumstances is as high as 90% in
Afghanistan and Jordan, 87% in
Mali, 86% in
Guinea and Timor-Leste, 81% in Laos, and 80% in the
Central African Republic. A 2010 survey conducted by the Pew
Research Center found that stoning as a punishment for adultery was
supported by 82% of respondents in
Egypt and Pakistan, 70% in Jordan,
56% Nigeria, and 42% in Indonesia.
Specific forms of violence that affect women include female genital
mutilation, sex trafficking, forced prostitution, forced marriage,
rape, sexual harassment, honor killings, acid throwing, and dowry
related violence. Governments can be complicit in violence against
women, for instance through practices such as stoning (as punishment
There have also been many forms of violence against women which have
been prevalent historically, notably the burning of witches, the
sacrifice of widows (such as sati) and foot binding. The prosecution
of women accused of witchcraft has a long tradition, for example witch
trials in the early modern period (between the 15th and 18th
centuries) were common in Europe and in the European colonies in North
America. Today, there remain regions of the world (such as parts of
Sub-Saharan Africa, rural North India, and Papua New Guinea) where
belief in witchcraft is held by many people, and women accused of
being witches are subjected to serious violence. In
addition, there are also countries which have criminal legislation
against the practice of witchcraft. In Saudi Arabia, witchcraft
remains a crime punishable by death, and in 2011 the country beheaded
a woman for 'witchcraft and sorcery'.
It is also the case that certain forms of violence against women have
been recognized as criminal offenses only during recent decades, and
are not universally prohibited, in that many countries continue to
allow them. This is especially the case with marital rape. In
the Western World, there has been a trend towards ensuring gender
equality within marriage and prosecuting domestic violence, but in
many parts of the world women still lose significant legal rights when
entering a marriage.
Sexual violence against women greatly increases during times of war
and armed conflict, during military occupation, or ethnic conflicts;
most often in the form of war rape and sexual slavery. Contemporary
examples of sexual violence during war include rape during the
Bangladesh Liberation War, rape in the Bosnian War, rape during the
Rwandan Genocide, and rape during Second Congo War. In Colombia, the
armed conflict has also resulted in increased sexual violence against
Laws and policies on violence against women vary by jurisdiction. In
the European Union, sexual harassment and human trafficking are
subject to directives.
Clothing, fashion and dress codes
Women's clothing varies highly in different cultures. From left to
right: Afghan women wearing burqas, Japanese women wearing kimonos,
and German women in casual tank tops and miniskirts.
Further information: Fashion, Modesty, Clothing, and
Hijab by country
Women in different parts of the world dress in different ways, with
their choices of clothing being influenced by local culture, religious
tenets traditions, social norms, and fashion trends, amongst other
factors. Different societies have different ideas about modesty.
However, in many jurisdictions, women's choices in regard to dress are
not always free, with laws limiting what they may or may not wear.
This is especially the case in regard to Islamic dress. While certain
jurisdictions legally mandate such clothing (the wearing of the
headscarf), other countries forbid or restrict the wearing of certain
hijab attire (such as burqa/covering the face) in public places (one
such country is
France - see French ban on face covering). These laws
are highly controversial.
Fertility and family life
Further information: Mother
A world map showing countries by total fertility rate (TFR), according
to the CIA World Factbook's 2015 data.
Mother and child, in Bhutan
The total fertility rate (TFR) - the average number of children born
to a woman over her lifetime — differs significantly between
different regions of the world. In 2016, the highest estimated TFR was
Niger (6.62 children born per woman) and the lowest in Singapore
(0.82 children/woman). While most Sub-Saharan African countries
have a high TFR, which creates problems due to lack of resources and
contributes to overpopulation, most Western countries currently
experience a sub replacement fertility rate which may lead to
population ageing and population decline.
In many parts of the world, there has been a change in family
structure over the past few decades. For instance, in the West, there
has been a trend of moving away from living arrangements that include
the extended family to those which only consist of the nuclear family.
There has also been a trend to move from marital fertility to
non-marital fertility. Children born outside marriage may be born to
cohabiting couples or to single women. While births outside marriage
are common and fully accepted in some parts of the world, in other
places they are highly stigmatized, with unmarried mothers facing
ostracism, including violence from family members, and in extreme
cases even honor killings. In addition, sex outside marriage
remains illegal in many countries (such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan,
Afghanistan, Iran, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco,
Oman, Mauritania, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and
The social role of the mother differs between cultures. In many parts
of the world, women with dependent children are expected to stay at
home and dedicate all their energy to child raising, while in other
places mothers most often return to paid work (see working mother and
Further information: Women in Christianity, Women in Judaism, Women in
Islam, Women in Mormonism, Women in Hinduism, Women in Sikhism, and
Women in Buddhism
Particular religious doctrines have specific stipulations relating to
gender roles, social and private interaction between the sexes,
appropriate dressing attire for women, and various other issues
affecting women and their position in society. In many countries,
these religious teachings influence the criminal law, or the family
law of those jurisdictions (see Sharia law, for example). The relation
between religion, law and gender equality has been discussed by
Female education includes areas of gender equality and access to
education, and its connection to the alleviation of poverty. Also
involved are the issues of single-sex education and religious
education in that the division of education along gender lines as well
as religious teachings on education have been traditionally dominant
and are still highly relevant in contemporary discussions of educating
females as a global consideration.
While the feminist movement has certainly promoted the importance of
the issues attached to female education the discussion is wide-ranging
and by no means narrowly defined. It may include, for example,
HIV/AIDS education. Universal education, meaning state-provided
primary and secondary education independent of gender is not yet a
global norm, even if it is assumed in most developed countries. In
some Western countries, women have surpassed men at many levels of
education. For example, in the United States in 2005/2006, women
earned 62% of associate degrees, 58% of bachelor's degrees, 60% of
master's degrees, and 50% of doctorates.
Women attending an adult literacy class in the
El Alto section of La
A female biologist weighs a desert tortoise before release
Main article: Literacy
World literacy is lower for females than for males. The CIA World
Factbook presents an estimate from 2010 which shows that 80% of women
are literate, compared to 88.6% of men (aged 15 and over). Literacy
rates are lowest in South and West Asia, and in parts of Sub-Saharan
The educational gender gap in Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development (OECD) countries has been reduced over the last 30
years. Younger women today are far more likely to have completed a
tertiary qualification: in 19 of the 30 OECD countries, more than
twice as many women aged 25 to 34 have completed tertiary education
than have women aged 55 to 64. In 21 of 27 OECD countries with
comparable data, the number of women graduating from university-level
programmes is equal to or exceeds that of men. 15-year-old girls tend
to show much higher expectations for their careers than boys of the
same age. While women account for more than half of university
graduates in several OECD countries, they receive only 30% of tertiary
degrees granted in science and engineering fields, and women account
for only 25% to 35% of researchers in most OECD countries.
There is a common misconception that women have still not advanced in
achieving academic degrees. According to Margaret Rossiter, a
historian of science, women now earn 54 percent of all bachelor's
degrees in the United States. However, although there are more women
holding bachelor's degrees than men, as the level of education
increases, the more men tend to fit the statistics[clarification
needed] instead of women. At the graduate level, women fill 40 percent
of the doctorate degrees (31 percent of them being in
While to this day women are studying at prestigious universities at
the same rate as men,[clarification needed] they are not being given
the same chance to join faculty. Sociologist Harriet Zuckerman has
observed that the more prestigious an institute is, the more difficult
and time-consuming it will be for women to obtain a faculty position
there. In 1989, Harvard University tenured its first woman in
chemistry, Cynthia Friend, and in 1992 its first woman in physics,
Melissa Franklin. She also observed that women were more likely to
hold their first professional positions as instructors and lecturers
while men are more likely to work first in tenure positions. According
to Smith and Tang, as of 1989, 65 percent of men and only 40 percent
of women held tenured positions and only 29 percent of all scientists
and engineers employed as assistant professors in four-year colleges
and universities were women.
In 1992, women earned 9 percent of the PhDs awarded in engineering,
but only one percent of those women became professors.[citation
needed] In 1995, 11 percent of professors in science and engineering
were women. In relation, only 311 deans of engineering schools were
women, which is less than 1 percent of the total. Even in psychology,
a degree in which women earn the majority of PhDs, they hold a
significant amount of fewer tenured positions, roughly 19 percent in
Women in politics
A world map showing female governmental participation by country, 2010
Angela Merkel has earned the top spot on the FORBES list of Most
Powerful Women In The World for eight of the past 10 years
Women are underrepresented in government in most countries. In October
2013, the global average of women in national assemblies was 22%.
Suffrage is the civil right to vote.
Women's suffrage in the United
States was achieved gradually, first at state and local levels,
starting in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and in 1920
women in the US received universal suffrage, with the passage of the
Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Some Western
countries were slow to allow women to vote; notably Switzerland, where
women gained the right to vote in federal elections in 1971, and in
the canton of
Appenzell Innerrhoden women were granted the right to
vote on local issues only in 1991, when the canton was forced to do so
by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland; and
Liechtenstein, in 1984, through a women's suffrage referendum.
Science, literature and art
Clara Schumann in 1878
Women have, throughout history, made contributions to science,
literature and art. One area where women have been permitted most
access historically was that of obstetrics and gynecology (prior to
the 18th century, caring for pregnant women in Europe was undertaken
by women; from the mid 18th century onwards medical monitoring of
pregnant women started to require rigorous formal education, to which
women did not generally have access, therefore the practice was
largely transferred to men).
Writing was generally also considered acceptable for upper class
women, although achieving success as a female writer in a male
dominated world could be very difficult; as a result several women
writers adopted a male pen name (e.g. George Sand, George
Women have been composers, songwriters, instrumental performers,
singers, conductors, music scholars, music educators, music
critics/music journalists and other musical professions. There are
music movements, events and genres related to women, women's issues
and feminism. In the 2010s, while women comprise a significant
proportion of popular music and classical music singers, and a
significant proportion of songwriters (many of them being
singer-songwriters), there are few women record producers, rock
critics and rock instrumentalists. Although there have been a huge
number of women composers in classical music, from the Medieval period
to the present day, women composers are significantly underrepresented
in the commonly performed classical music repertoire, music history
textbooks and music encyclopedias; for example, in the Concise Oxford
History of Music,
Clara Schumann is one of the only female composers
who is mentioned.
Women comprise a significant proportion of instrumental soloists in
classical music and the percentage of women in orchestras is
increasing. A 2015 article on concerto soloists in major Canadian
orchestras, however, indicated that 84% of the soloists with the
Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal
Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal were men. In 2012, women still made
up just 6% of the top-ranked
Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. Women are
less common as instrumental players in popular music genres such as
rock and heavy metal, although there have been a number of notable
female instrumentalists and all-female bands. Women are particularly
underrepresented in extreme metal genres. Women are also
underrepresented in orchestral conducting, music criticism/music
journalism, music producing, and sound engineering. While women were
discouraged from composing in the 19th century, and there are few
women musicologists, women became involved in music education "... to
such a degree that women dominated [this field] during the later half
of the 19th century and well into the 20th century."
According to Jessica Duchen, a music writer for London's The
Independent, women musicians in classical music are "... too often
judged for their appearances, rather than their talent" and they face
pressure "... to look sexy onstage and in photos." Duchen states
that while "[t]here are women musicians who refuse to play on their
looks, ... the ones who do tend to be more materially successful."
According to the UK's Radio 3 editor, Edwina Wolstencroft, the
classical music industry has long been open to having women in
performance or entertainment roles, but women are much less likely to
have positions of authority, such as being the leader of an
orchestra. In popular music, while there are many women singers
recording songs, there are very few women behind the audio console
acting as music producers, the individuals who direct and manage the
Gender studies portal
Lists of women
Women as theological figures
Women in science
List of female explorers and travelers
Women in space
^ "wīfmann": Bosworth & Toller, Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Oxford,
1898-1921) p. 1219. The spelling "wifman" also occurs: C. T. Onions,
Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (Oxford, 1966) p. 1011
^ Webster's New World Dictionary, Second College Edition, entry for
^ man - definition Dictionary.reference.com
^ e.g. The Woman's Bible, By Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Revising
^ "Germanic etymology : Query result".
^ "dict.cc — wampe — Wörterbuch
^ Jose A. Fadul. Encyclopedia of Theory & Practice in
Psychotherapy & Counseling p. 337
^ Used in Middle English from c. 1300, meaning 'a child of either sex,
a young person'. Its derivation is uncertain, perhaps from an Old
English word which has not survived: another theory is that it
Old English 'gyrela', meaning 'dress, apparel': or was
a diminutive form of a borrowing from another West Germanic Language.
(Middle Low German has Gör, Göre, meaning 'girl or small child'.)
"girl, n.". OED Online. September 2013. Oxford University Press. 13
^ By late 14th century a distinction was arising between female
children, often called 'gay girls' – and male, or 'knave girls'
-: a1375 William of Palerne (1867) l. 816 ' Whan þe gaye gerles were
in-to þe gardin come, Faire floures þei founde.' ('When the gay
girls came into the garden, Fair flowers they found.') By the 16th
century the unsupported word had begun to mean specifically a female:
1546 J. Heywood Dialogue Prouerbes Eng. Tongue i. x. sig. D, 'The boy
thy husbande, and thou the gyrle his wyfe.' The usage meaning 'child
of either sex' survived much longer in Irish English. "girl, n.". OED
Online. September 2013. Oxford University Press. 13 September 2013
^ "BBC — Religions — Christianity: Confirmation".
^ Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton (2004). The Complete Royal Families
of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05128-3.
^ J. Tyldesley, Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt, 2006, Thames &
^ Wilkinson, Toby A.H. (2001). Early dynastic
Egypt (1 ed.).
Routledge. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-415-26011-4.
^ Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton (2004). The Complete Royal Families
of Ancient Egypt. p. 140. Thames & Hudson.
Merit-Ptah at the University of Alabama.
^ Plinio Prioreschi, A History of Medicine, Horatius Press 1996, p.
^ Lois N. Magner, A History of Medicine, Marcel Dekker 1992, p. 28.
^ Elisabeth Meier Tetlow (2004). Women, Crime, and Punishment in
Ancient Law and Society: The ancient Near East. Continuum
International Publishing Group. p. 221.
ISBN 978-0-8264-1628-5. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
^ Elisabeth Meier Tetlow (2004). Women, Crime, and Punishment in
Ancient Law and Society: The ancient Near East. Continuum
International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8264-1628-5. Retrieved
29 July 2011.
Michael Roaf (1992). Mesopotamia and the ancient Near East.
Stonehenge Press. ISBN 978-0-86706-681-4. Retrieved 29 July
^ Samuel Kurinsky. "Jewish Women Through The Ages — The
Proto-Jewess En Hedu'Anna, Priestess, Poet, Scientist". Hebrew History
^ Jennifer Bergman (19 July 2001). "Windows to the Universe".
www.nestanet.org. National Earth Science Teachers Association.
^ J. M. Adovasio, Olga Soffer, Jake Page (2007). The Invisible Sex:
Uncovering the True Roles of Women in
Prehistory (1st Smithsonian
Books ed.). Smithsonian Books & Collins (Harper Collins
Publishers). pp. 278–279. ISBN 978-0-06-117091-1. CS1
maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
^ Elisabeth Meier Tetlow. Women, Crime, and Punishment in Ancient Law
and Society: The ancient Near East. Continuum International Publishing
Group. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-8264-1628-5.
^ Fausto-Sterling, Anne (2000). Sexing the Body:
Gender Politics and
the Construction of Sexuality. Basic Books. pp. 44–77.
ISBN 978-0-465-07714-4. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
^ "Why is life expectancy longer for women than it is for men?".
Scientific American. 2004-08-30. Retrieved 2009-10-17.
United Nations Statistics Division — Demographic and Social
Statistics". unstats.un.org. Retrieved 2017-02-04.
^ (Tanner, 1990).
^ Anderson SE, Dallal GE, Must A (April 2003). "Relative weight and
race influence average age at menarche: results from two nationally
representative surveys of US girls studied 25 years apart".
Pediatrics. 111 (4 Pt 1): 844–50. doi:10.1542/peds.111.4.844.
^ Al-Sahab B, Ardern CI, Hamadeh MJ, Tamim H (2010). "Age at menarche
in Canada: results from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children
& Youth". BMC Public Health. BMC Public Health. 10: 736.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-736. PMC 3001737 .
^ Hamilton-Fairley, Diana. "
Obstetrics and Gynaecology" (PDF) (Second
ed.). Blackwell Publishing.
Menarche and menstruation are absent in many of the intersex and
transgender conditions mentioned above and also in primary amenorrhea.
^ "gynaecology — definition of gynaecology in English Oxford
Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries English. Retrieved
^ "Advancing the case for gender-based medicine — Horizon 2020
- European Commission". Horizon 2020. Retrieved 2017-02-04.
Maternal mortality ratio (per 100 000 live births)". Who.int.
WHO Maternal mortality". Who.int. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
^ "The World Factbook". Cia.gov. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
^ "Resolution on Reproductive and Sexual
Gynecology and Obstetrics". Figo.org. Retrieved
^ "Uzbekistan's policy of secretly sterilising women". BBC News. 12
^ "BBC Radio 4 - Crossing Continents, Forced Sterilisation in
Uzbekistan". Bbc.co.uk. 2012-04-16. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
^ "China 'one-child' policy:
Mother of 2 dies after forced
sterilization". GlobalPost. 2013-04-09. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
^ "Thousands at risk of forced sterilization in China Amnesty
International". Amnesty.org. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
^ "China forced abortion photo sparks outrage". BBC News. 14 June
^ Sharpe, S. (1976). Just like a Girl. London: Penguin.
^ Gere, J., & Helwig, C. C. (2012). Young adults' attitudes and
reasoning about gender oles in the family context. "
Women Quarterly, 36", 301-313. doi: 10.1177/0361684312444272
^ Schiebinger, Londa (1999). Has
Feminism Changed Science? :
Science and Private Life. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University
Press. pp. 92–103.
^ "U.S. Education Slips In Rankings". CBS News. 13 September
^ "A/RES/48/104. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against
Women". Un.org. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
United Nations General Assembly. "A/RES/48/104 - Declaration on the
Elimination of Violence against Women — UN Documents: Gathering
a body of global agreements". UN Documents. Retrieved
^ "Statistics by Area — Attitudes towards wife-beating —
Statistical table". Childinfo.org. Archived from the original on
2014-07-04. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
^ "Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah Pew Research
Center's Global Attitudes Project". Pewglobal.org. Retrieved
Woman burned alive for 'sorcery' in Papua New Guinea". BBC News. 7
^ "Saudi Arabia: Beheading for 'sorcery' shocking Amnesty
International". Amnesty.org. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
^ "Saudi woman beheaded for 'witchcraft and sorcery' - CNN.com". CNN.
14 December 2011.
^ In 2006, the UN Secretary-General's In-depth study on all forms of
violence against women found that (pg 113): "
Marital rape may be
prosecuted in at least 104 States. Of these, 32 have made marital rape
a specific criminal offence, while the remaining 74 do not exempt
marital rape from general rape provisions.
Marital rape is not a
prosecutable offence in at least 53 States. Four States criminalize
marital rape only when the spouses are judicially separated. Four
States are considering legislation that would allow marital rape to be
^ In England and Wales, marital rape was made illegal in 1991. The
views of Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th-century jurist, published in The
History of the Pleas of the Crown (1736), stated that a husband cannot
be guilty of the rape of his wife because the wife "hath given up
herself in this kind to her husband, which she cannot retract"; in
England and Wales
England and Wales this would remain law for more than 250 years, until
it was abolished by the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, in
the case of R v R in 1991.
^ For example, in Yemen, marriage regulations state that a wife must
obey her husband and must not leave home without his permission. In
Iraq husbands have a legal right to "punish" their wives. The criminal
code states at Paragraph 41 that there is no crime if an act is
committed while exercising a legal right; examples of legal rights
include: "The punishment of a wife by her husband, the disciplining by
parents and teachers of children under their authority within certain
limits prescribed by law or by custom"."Archived copy" (PDF). Archived
from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2012-10-21. In
Democratic Republic of Congo
Democratic Republic of Congo the Family Code states that the
husband is the head of the household; the wife owes her obedience to
her husband; a wife has to live with her husband wherever he chooses
to live; and wives must have their husbands' authorization to bring a
case in court or to initiate other legal proceedings.
^ "Colombian authorities fail to stop or punish sexual violence
against women Amnesty International". Amnesty.org. Retrieved
^ Directive 2002/73/EC — equal treatment of 23 September 2002
amending Council Directive 76/207/EEC on the implementation of the
principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access to
employment, vocational training and promotion, and working conditions
^ "DIRECTIVE 2011/36/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL
of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human
beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework
^ "Women's right to choose their dress, free of coercion". Amnesty
International. 4 March 2011.
^ "Changing Patterns of Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States".
CDC/National Center for
Health Statistics. May 13, 2009. Retrieved
September 24, 2011.
^ "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency".
^ "Turkey condemns 'honour killings'". BBC News. 1 March 2004.
Human Rights Voices – Pakistan, August 21, 2008".
Eyeontheun.org. Archived from the original on January 21, 2013.
^ "Home". AIDSPortal. Archived from the original on 2008-10-26.
^ a b "Iran". Travel.state.gov. Archived from the original on
Human Rights Website – Treaty Bodies
Database – Document – Summary Record – Kuwait".
^ "Culture of Maldives – history, people, clothing, women,
beliefs, food, customs, family, social". Everyculture.com.
^ Fakim, Nora (9 August 2012). "BBC News – Morocco: Should
pre-marital sex be legal?". BBC.
^ "Legislation of Interpol member states on sexual offences against
children – Oman" (PDF). Interpol. Archived from the original
(PDF) on 15 December 2007.
Human Rights Report: Mauritania". State.gov. 8 April
^ Dubai FAQs. "Education in Dubai". Dubaifaqs.com.
^ Judd, Terri (10 July 2008). "Briton faces jail for sex on Dubai
beach – Middle East – World". The Independent.
^ "Sudan must rewrite rape laws to protect victims". Reuters. 28 June
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "Refworld Women's
Rights in the Middle East and North Africa – Yemen".
United Nations News Centre — Harmful practices against women
and girls can never be justified by religion – UN expert".
Un.org. 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
^ "The World Factbook". Cia.gov. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
^ Education Levels Rising in OECD Countries but Low Attainment Still
Hampers Some, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,
Publication Date: 14 September 2004. Retrieved December 2006.
^ Women in Scientific Careers: Unleashing the Potential, Organisation
for Economic Co-operation and Development, ISBN 92-64-02537-5,
Publication Date: 20 November 2006. Retrieved December 2006.
^ Eisenhart, A. Margaret; Finkel, Elizabeth (2001). Women (Still) Need
Gender and Science Reader. New York: Routledge.
pp. 13–23. CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
^ Brainard, Susanne G.; Carlin, Linda (2001). A six-year Longitudinal
Study of Undergraduate Women in
Engineering and Science:The
Science Reader. New York: Routledge. pp. 24–37. CS1 maint:
Uses authors parameter (link)
^ Schiebinger, Londa (1999). Has feminism changed science ?:
Meters of Equity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
^ "Angela Merkel". Forbes. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
^ "Women in Parliaments: World and Regional Averages". Ipu.org.
2011-02-14. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
^ "The Long Way to Women's Right to
Vote in Switzerland: a
Chronology". History-switzerland.geschichte-schweiz.ch. Retrieved
^ "Experts In Women'S Anti-Discrimination Committee Raise Questions
Concerning Reports Of
Switzerland On Compliance With Convention".
Un.org. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
^ Gelis, Jacues. History of Childbirth. Boston: Northern University
Press, 1991: 96-98
^ Bynum, W.F., & Porter, Roy, eds. Companion Encyclopedia of the
History of Medicine. London and New York: Routledge, 1993: 1051-1052.
^ Julian Schaap and Pauwke Berkers. "Grunting Alone? Online Gender
Inequality in Extreme Metal Music" in Journal of the International
Association for the Study of Popular Music. Vol.4, no.1 (2014) p. 103
^ "Women Composers In American Popular Song, Page 1". Parlorsongs.com.
1911-03-25. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
^ a b "CBC Music". Archived from the original on 2016-03-01.
^ Jessica Duchen. "Why the male domination of classical music might be
coming to an end Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
^ Ncube, Rosina (September 2013). "Sounding Off: Why So Few Women In
Audio?". Sound on Sound.
Chafe, William H., "The American Woman: Her Changing Social, Economic,
And Political Roles, 1920–1970", Oxford University Press, 1972.
Routledge international encyclopedia of women, 4 vls., ed. by Cheris
Kramarae and Dale Spender, Routledge 2000
Women in world history : a biographical encyclopedia, 17 vls.,
ed. by Anne Commire, Waterford, Conn. [etc.] : Yorkin Publ.
Woman In all ages and in all countries in 10 volumes. Illustrated
edition deluxe limited to 1,000 numbered copies with an index by
Look up woman or muliebrity in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Look up Wikisaurus:woman in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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digitized texts by the BIUM (Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de
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