A hugely useful post by Kate Elliot at tor.com: Writing Women Characters Into Epic Fantasy Without Quotas.
This post offers brief descriptions of women’s lives and roles in many different cultures and times. This makes for interesting reading on its own, but the real usefulness of this post is the bibliography. Here is a selection of some of the referenced works:
Fatima Bercht, Estrellita Brodsky, John Alan Farmer, and Dicey Taylor, editors, Taíno: Pre-Columbian Art and Culture from the Caribbean
Sarah B. Pomeroy, Women in Hellenistic Egypt
Anne Walthall, editor, Servants of the Dynasty: Palace Women in World History
Steven A. Epstein, Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe
Jane Rowlandson, editor, Women in Society in Greek and Roman Egypt
Ferran Garcia-Oliver, The Valley of the Six Mosques: Work and Life in Medieval Valldigna
Gavin R. G. Hambly, editor, Women in the Medieval Islamic World
Maria Brosius, Women in Ancient Persia
Alvin M. Josephy, 500 Nations
Susan B. Hanley, Everyday Things in Premodern Japan
… and this is by no means a complete list; it’s a selection of the citations that particularly caught my eye.
It’s a very long post, but well worth perusal. And some of these books are definitely going on my TBR pile.