From Atlas Etnográfico de Vasconia
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Life together of the spouses

Communal life in the workplace

There was a division of duties in the family and in the marriage in traditional society. Some were specific to the husband and others to the wife. Schematically, the place of the man in the rural world could be said to be to work outside the home and in the barn, meaning that the woman was in charge of everything related to the home and the nearby vegetable garden, baratza, ortua, which was entrusted to her.

The surveys released that, along with those general tasks, there were certain tasks shared by both, even though the tasks requiring a greater physical effort were done by the husband. However, it was generally reported that the wife helped the husband in the farming-livestock work more than he helped his wife with the housework.

Authority in the marital partnership

Domination of the wife over the husband

As was generally reported, our society traditionally accepted as normal the husband dominating the wife and many people surveyed pointed out that it was frowned upon for a wife to dominate her husband, particularly if that was seen in public and was common knowledge.

Some people surveyed also explained that it was also frowned upon for the husband to meddle in household affairs as the home was considered to be the wife’s territory.

Social life of the spouses

Joint social life

In the rural world, there was no much free time for social relations except with the local neighbours. The wife was also tied to the house looking after the children and small livestock. There was therefore not much free time.

That did not mean that there was not a greater social like in the more populated locations or with a concentrated population centre.

It was commonly reported that men have had and continue to have more of a social life than women. They went to the bar, played cards, etc. and consequently was in greater contact with people. Women’s circle of friends, particularly after getting married, would frequently get narrower. In small towns, their social life was reduced to chatting with other female neighbours after Mass and playing a game of cards in someone’s house. The couple would occasionally attend festivities or dance in the village or nearby town, but that would happen more frequently before than after getting married. Weddings, baptisms, funerals and the patron saint’s day festivities would be where the spouses would go together and spend time with other people.

In general, the spouses were seen that however little or much social life they had, they enjoyed it independently, with the men on one side and the women on the other. However, they would occasionally go together to some events.

Educating the children

Main role of the wife

In general, the surveys showed that the mother was mainly in charge of educating the children when they were young. The father would follow the education of his children, particularly the schooling, from the information provided by his wife. His involvement was often limited to cases of disobedience or bad behaviour, and therefore represented the figure of authority. However, the fundamental aim was to work together and not disagree in front of the children. Some of the people surveyed said that the father would be in charge of overseeing the boys and the mother the girls.

Role of the wife in the passing on of values and beliefs

In general, the information from the surveys show that the wife out of the two spouses has been the person who mainly brings up the children and in charge of passing on the tradition that she in turn received from her foreparents.

Those tasks regarding religion and worship are still the remit of women to a great extent. However, some traditional duties such as those related to worshiping the deas have gradually fallen into decline as the family burial grounds fell into disuse. The husband generally played a more secondary role as regards household religion. However, certain religious activities were entrusted to him, including: making offerings or asking for Masses to be to ensure the health or fertility of the livestock, planting blessed crosses to protect the fields, attend the prayers for rain, putting the image of St. Anthony in the stable to protect the livestock from illness, etc. The division of responsibilities regarding religion reflects the very division of the duties and tasks of the husband and wife on the farmstead. And that was reflected in even the smallest details, the bayleaves, which was placed on the headboard of the beds or in the home, was left up to the wife. By contrast, planting or attaching the oak or ash branch at the door of the house, on St. John’s Day, was always the exclusive task of the husband.


Frequency and names

Many of the surveyed people explained that adoptions were frequent in the past at least until the first half of the 20th century. It was noted in other places that there were rare, due to the small size of the population and that the families were large.

In the places surveyed, a distinction was made between legal adoptions with assimilation of the children, from other temporary adoptions or for a specific time, which had no legal consequences that the term adoption was still used in popular speech.

Even though as we will see there were adoptions of relatives and other cases, the first that we are going to analyse are the adopted children from public institutions that would help and take in abandoned children, orphans, children from very large families, poor families and of unmarried mothers.