Singlewomen in the European Past, 1250-1800 / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $12.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 50%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (27) from $12.99   
  • New (7) from $15.25   
  • Used (20) from $12.99   


When we think about the European past, we tend to imagine villages, towns, and cities populated by conventional families—married couples and their children. Although most people did marry and pass many of their adult years in the company of a spouse, this vision of a preindustrial Europe shaped by heterosexual marriage deceptively hides the well-established fact that, in some times and places, as many as twenty-five percent of women and men remained single throughout their lives.

Despite the significant number of never-married lay women in medieval and early modern Europe, the study of their role and position in that society has been largely neglected. Singlewomen in the European Past opens up this group for further investigation. It is not only the first book to highlight the important minority of women who never married but also the first to address the critical matter of differences among women from the perspective of marital status.

Essays by leading scholars—among them Maryanne Kowaleski, Margaret Hunt, Ruth Mazo Karras, Susan Mosher Stuard, Roberta Krueger, and Merry Wiesner—deal with topics including the sexual and emotional relationships of singlewomen, the economic issues and employment opportunities facing them, the differences between the lives of widows and singlewomen, the conflation of singlewomen and prostitutes, and the problem of female slavery. The chapters both illustrate the roles open to the singlewoman in the thirteenth through eighteenth centuries and raise new perspectives about the experiences of singlewomen in earlier times.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An exemplary contribution to the history of women. . . . All of the essays pay admirable attention to the variety of unmarried women's experiences."—Choice

"This collection calls our attention both to the way historians have ignored one particular group and to the costs of having done so. The essays are rich with interesting detail, balanced and nuanced in argument, and filled with provocative challenges to our assumptions about how singlewomen interpreted their situations."—Martha Howell, Columbia University

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812216684
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/1/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.03 (w) x 8.94 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith M. Bennett is Professor of History at the University of Southern California. She is the author, most recently, of History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press. Amy M. Froide teaches history at Miami University of Ohio. She is completing a book on singlewomen in early modern England.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1 A Singular Past 1
2 Singlewomen in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: The Demographic Perspective 38
3 "It Is Not Good That [Wo]man Should Be Alone": Elite Responses to Singlewomen in High Medieval Paris 82
4 Single by Law and Custom 106
5 Sex and the Singlewoman 127
6 Transforming Maidens: Singlewomen's Stories in Marie de France's Lais and Later French Courtly Narratives 146
7 Having Her Own Smoke: Employment and Independence for Singlewomen in Germany, 1400-1750 192
8 Singlewomen in Early Modern Venice: Communities and Opportunities 217
9 Marital Status as a Category of Difference: Singlewomen and Widows in Early Modern England 236
10 The Sapphic Strain: English Lesbians in the Long Eighteenth Century 270
11 Singular Politics: The Rise of the British Nation and the Production of the Old Maid 297
Appendix: Demographic Tables 325
List of Contributors 345
Index 347
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)