Women and gender

Both women and men owned and used seals in the Middle Ages, although there were some legal and administrative differences in sealing practice between the sexes.

Noblewomen were involved in the administration of lands in various capacities, granting and witnessing documents, and many therefore owned seals. Seals are invaluable for the information that they offer about aristocratic and gentle women, including concepts of group identity, dress codes and symbols of power, as well as ideas about gender, social status, family and lineage.

As the use of seals spread throughout society an increasing range of motifs were deployed. Some of these motifs were non-gender specific: that is they were used on the seals of both men and women.