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

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Overview

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.

"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

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.

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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

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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.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
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
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