Medieval Single Women: The Politics of Social Classification in Late Medieval England

Hardcover | September 26, 2007

byCordelia Beattie

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The single woman is a troubling and disruptive category. Does it denote all unmarried women, therefore creating a group which every female was part of at some stage in her life? Or, were the categories 'maiden' and 'widow' so culturally significant in late medieval England that 'single woman'was a residual category for women seen as anomalous? Was the category 'single man' used in an equivalent way and, if not, why? This study offers a way into the complex process of social classification in late medieval England. All societies use classifications in order to understand and impose order. In this book, Cordelia Beattie views classification as a political act, an act of power: those classifying must make choices about which divisions are most important or about who falls into which category, and such choiceshave repercussions. Defining how a group or an individual should be labelled, means variables such as social status, gender, or age, are prioritized. Rather than isolate gender as a variable, this book examines how it relates to other social cleavages. Using a variety of approaches, from social andcultural history, to gender history, and medieval studies, its original methodology offers an innovative approach to a range of historical texts, from pastoral manuals to tax returns, and guild registers.

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The single woman is a troubling and disruptive category. Does it denote all unmarried women, therefore creating a group which every female was part of at some stage in her life? Or, were the categories 'maiden' and 'widow' so culturally significant in late medieval England that 'single woman'was a residual category for women seen as an...

Cordelia Beattie is a Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Edinburgh.

other books by Cordelia Beattie

Women In The Medieval World
Women In The Medieval World

Hardcover|Sep 22 2016

$1,885.31 online$2,118.05list price
Format:HardcoverDimensions:182 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.71 inPublished:September 26, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199283419

ISBN - 13:9780199283415

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Table of Contents

IntroductionMedieval classification schemesSingle woman as a category of difference1. Classification in Cultural ContextClean maids, true wives, and steadfast widowsFemmes solesMarriage, social change, and the politics of classification2. The Single Woman in a Penitential DiscoursePenitential discourse, women, and sexual sinFourteen degrees of active lecherySeven states of chastity3. The Single Woman in a Fiscal DiscourseThe schedule for the 1379 tax and the classification processThe Bishop's Lynn poll tax return of 1379Widows, daughters, and workThinking with single women4. The Single Woman in Guild TextsSingle sisters and the guild returns of 1388-9Maidens and single men: the register of the guild of the Holy Cross, Stratford-upon-Avon (1406-1535)5. 'Singlewoman' as a Personal DesignationEarly examples of 'singlewoman'York's civic records c.1475-c.1540From the medieval to the early modernConclusion: Cultural Intersections