The image of a Spartan made popular by the film 300 is that of a toned male warrior, his heavy shield in hand as he thunders fearlessly into battle. This has led many to believe that Spartan society was strongly patriarchal, but this is simply not true, female Spartans enjoyed much more freedom than other Greek women.
Young Spartan girls were expected to be fit and healthy, they were given a public education and took part in many sporting events alongside boys, such as horse racing, gymnastics and wrestling. There was even an all female chariot race! Childbirth was viewed in Spartan society as crucial as the role of a warrior, so women were encouraged to be physically strong in order to bear many children. The act was revered so dearly that women who died in childbirth would receive the same honours as soldiers who died in battle. Women were free to refuse a suitor if she could fight him off (not uncommon for these physically strong ladies!) as well as being free to divorce and remarry if she desired. As heads of the household while their husbands were at war, they were the masters of the slaves who performed the domestic duties.
When Gorgo, wife of Leonidas was asked by a woman from Attica, “Why is it that you Spartan women are the only women that lord it over your men?” She responded, “Because we are the only women that are mothers of men.”