Recent historical studies suggest that until the close of the Middle Ages large numbers of European women were able to control their own fertility. Between 1500 and 1700, however, their ability to do so appears to have diminished and in the 1700s and 1800s to have been largely absent for the bulk of the population. There is also much evidence that women experienced a general deterioration in social and economic conditions from the end of the Middle Ages onward. Linking this body of evidence with tale collections’ increasing thematization of pregnancy on the one hand and victimized girls and women on the other precisely at the point at which the European fairy tale emerges, I conclude that losing control of their own fertility was pivotal in forming the character of the modern fairy-tale heroine.
Bottigheimer, Ruth B.. "Fertility Control and the Birth of the Modern European Fairy-Tale Heroine." Marvels & Tales 14.1 (2000). Web. <http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/marvels/vol14/iss1/2>.