Practical Effects of Young Female Marriage in the Middle Ages


It is becoming a global norm, at least in the West, that marriage should not be legal for any person under 18 years of age. This global (Western) standard is based on various practical and moral concerns.

In Judaism it was customary for at least 1000 years during the Middle Ages to marry the girls very early in teenage. (I don’t know if average marrying ages are known for the more ancient times, long before the Middle Ages.) As there is such a vast amount of experience on the practice, one wonders if Jews encountered and documented any of the perceived modern practical or moral risks becoming reality. For example, there is a belief that having children in teenage is risky for the mother. I wonder if statistical information exists (or discussion about the topic in Medieval times), from which it would be possible to assess any excess mortality (or lack thereof) related to Jews marrying very young. Or do the historical records look like everything was OK, and girls marrying very young had no such adverse effects, which would have been noticed and documented by anyone?



  1. I am not a historian but, nevertheless, I am not familiar with any research that has been done on the subject. If anything, the standards of hygiene in the Middle Ages was much higher for Jews and Jewish women in particular. Ritual hand washing is an integral part of daily Jewish life – on arising, before eating, after using the restroom – something that was relatively rare in Medieval times. Due to the Laws of Family Purity, Jewish women were obligated to cleanse themselves on a regular basis – both externally and internally. Bedding and clothing had to be laundered regularly. Subsequently hygiene was actually something that was an accepted norm. This is in contradistinction to the general lifestyle of Medieval Europe. The general state of medical hygiene was non-existent, and I would hazard that most deaths that occurred in childbirth were simply because the conditions were appalling.

    Perhaps you might want to try contacting Rabbi Berel Wein. Rabbi Wein is one of the foremost experts in Jewish history. Rabbi Wein can be contacted at:

    Best wishes from the Team