Women were considered to be an important part of the Mayan society and were respected by the male members of society. They were not regarded as sub-ordinates to men, but equal to them. However, their duties and responsibilities differed from those performed by men.
Mayan women took care of the household chores like preparing food, bringing water and getting firewood. The job of men was to produce food through the means of agriculture and the women were supposed to process this into edible food for the family. One of the most crucial duties for the woman was to process the dried corn into flour.
The most important task for a married woman was to give birth and raise children. Men took part in the process of childbearing by bloodletting their genitals. It was thought that a new life will be born from this blood. The blood which was sacrificed was allowed to drip on a cloth. This cloth was later on burned.
The Mayan women engaged themselves in indoor activities like weaving and spinning. They weaved cloth and fabrics. The rich women used dye to color their cloth and the fabric used was of high quality. Mayan women were even known to have made pottery. The women were skilled in the arts of weaving and pottery. Another important role of a Mayan woman was to groom her daughter for later life.
Young girls were taught how to take care of the house, along with the arts of weaving, pottery, spinning and they even made jewels. Young girls were also taught about religion and how to keep the religious shrine. Young boys and girls in a family lived separately since an early age. The boys lived with the male members, while the girls lived with the female members of the family.
Mayan women were related with the ritual religious practices. Women were forbidden from making a direct eye contact with men. Mayan women had their meals after men. Women also worked in the fields during the harvesting season. They were also responsible for taking care of animals like chicken, rabbit and deers often raised for meat. Mayan men often went away to fight long battles. Women let their blood for their husband's safety and success. It was thought that by sweeping the house in a certain manner the men will be victorious.
Marriages in the Mayan society were arranged by the parents of the couple. Marriage was considered to be a social alliance. Women played a crucial part in political alliances. Women from rich families of one kingdom were married into another kingdom, either to strengthen the relations between the two kingdoms or form new alliances. It is believed that the women were entitled to hold property.
Apart from the mundane responsibilities, women also participated in governmental and economic activities. During the early Mayan period, some women were known to have even ruled over kingdoms. A stone carving of a woman which was discovered in Guatemala is said to be of a ruler. The women thus held powerful positions, at times in the form of goddess or deity. Some of the best examples of women ruler were Lady of Tikal, Lady Yohl Ik'nal and Muwaan Mat.
The clothes worn by Mayan women were very simple. They wore a blouse known as huipil. It is a rectangular or square shaped cloth that had a hole in its center. The neck of the blouse was embroidered with designs. Along with the blouse, women wore a skirt which reached to the ankles. A belt like thing called faja was worn at the waist to hole the blouse and the skirt together.
During winter they wore a rectangular cloth around their neck as a shawl. The Mayans had different jewelery for different body parts like ear, nose, mouth, legs and neck. Pendants were a part of the jewelery worn by the Mayans and animal-shaped pendants were common.