Social Position in HeianSocial Position of Women
in the Heian Period


In the Heian period, upper-class women enjoyed a relativelystrong position in society. They could inherit and keep property, although usually a man would administer it, and the law protected them from physical violence. A married woman continued living in her birth home, preventing her husband or mother-in-law from holding too much power or influence over her day-to-day life. For education of court women, they participated equally in the fields of poetry, letter writing, calligraphy, music, the preparation of incense and perfumes, and fashion.
However, as shown in the Tale of Genji, they did not have the right to choose their husbands, and the status of marriage in Heian period was polygamy, therefore, it is very doubtful that women were really happy.


Though not so many images of lower class women in the Heian period are left, we can see some in Yamai-no-Zoshi (Illness sketches). The picture below shows a fat woman as an example of a disease. She and other women all wear conservative white robes which are completely different from court women's Juni-Hitoe (twelve unlined robes) .

Lower Women