Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies...
I have come to the conclusion that Proverbs 31 is the most feminist chapter of the Bible. Whenever an attempt is made to defend traditional family roles for men and women, somebody somewhere is bound to produce it as the ultimate proof that it's OK for a Christian woman to have a career. Because the Proverbs 31 woman buys a field and makes fine linen and sells it and delivers girdles to the merchants. This is the argument in a nutshell.
I have noticed that for feminists it's always about money. Proverbs 31 woman did a lot of things. For instance, she made herself clothes (coverings of tapestry), but feminists don't run to their husbands demanding that the husbands buy them sewing machines. They don't use the chapter as the proof that a lady should make her own clothes or learn how to spin, or work in the garden the whole day.
Proverbs 31 woman was obviously a wealthy woman. She had servants (gave a portion to her maidens). Yet I have never heard this chapter used as a proof that every married woman should be able to hire domestic help. By some reason, only the money-related activities described in Proverbs 31 attract so much attention. Let's look at them more closely.
So Proverbs 31 lady considereth a field and buyeth it. How does it make her a career woman? Did she do real estate? Was she in a habit of buying fields? How often did she do it? How big exactly was this field? May be, it was just a small piece of land. May be, it was normal for women of her social class to make such purchases, just as nowadays women will often buy new furniture for their household and the like. I fail to see what buying a field has to do with working outside home (the fact that she planted a vineyard doesn't prove it, either, otherwise every housewife with a garden should be called a career woman).
So the only things we have left are making and selling of linen and delivering of girdles to the merchant. First, let's talk about those girdles. The lady in question delivered them to the merchant, but didn't go out and sit in the shop the whole day. We also don't know whether she made those girdles herself or may be her servants did. We do know that she made and sold fine linen, though. She did it while staying home, so the one thing we can deduce from it, is that it's OK to have some sort of a home business.
The fact that Proverbs 31 woman had a home business hardly can be used to justify working outside home, imo, and that's exactly how this chapter is used. (It's interesting, that Proverbs 7 describes a harlot as a woman whose feet "abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets...").
Further on, Proverbs 31 lady having a home business means that it's OK to make and sell stuff from home (I'm, for instance, trying to sell my book), but it doesn't make it mandatory for women to earn or help earn an income. The book of Proverbs is after all in the Old Testament. OT is important, but we as Christians live under the New Covenant. While the moral laws such as the Ten Commandments are still valid for us today, we don't follow the Hebrew dietary prescriptions, e.g.
The Christian teaching about the role of women is summed up in 1 Timothy 5 and Titus 2:
I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
and That they (aged women) may teach the young women to ...be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands that the word of God be not blasphemed.
I very much doubt that the ladies who insist that it's OK to have a career because Proverbs 31 woman bought a field, would be thrilled if their husbands came home one day and announced that they were taking another wife. After all, polygamy is in the Bible, too! It's evident that they just pick and choose the verses they like, while totally disregarding the context in which they were written.
Women throughout the ages used to participate in the market to a certain degree. There is nothing wrong with it, however, the traditional breadwinner role belongs to the man. Man makes a living, woman makes life worth living. Don't let Proverbs 31 feminists intimidate you.