Widows at the nexus of family and community in early modern Castile
AuthorFink de Backer, Stephanie
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractWidows as individuals and as a social group held fundamental importance to both the family and civic life of early modern Castile. Archival sources indicate that widows' influence throughout all levels of Castilian society was magnified by their relative degree of legal autonomy, combined with a tacit acceptance of women's activities in many areas of familial and municipal life. The use of documents more closely reflecting women's daily activities allows for contextualization of the complex impact of moral and legal rhetoric on the social construction of widowhood, providing concrete examples of widows' practical and often highly tactical employment, evasion, and/or manipulation of patriarchal and moral norms. The experience of widowhood both forces a re-examination of gender boundaries by questioning current theories of female enclosure and demands a re-evaluation of gendered patterns in expressions of patronage and parentage. Marital status and social class become more important that the gendered moral and legal strictures of an apparently patriarchal society in terms of early modern women's ability to take part in a wide range of activities normally not considered possible for their sex. Toledo's widows challenge public/private spheres models by giving evidence of the public nature of private lives and the private ends of public acts. Examining widows' lives provides insight into the complex mechanisms lying behind the formulation of gender boundaries in the early modern world and the pragmatic politics of everyday life at the nexus of family and community.
Degree ProgramGraduate College