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Medieval Single WomenThe Politics of Social Classification in Late Medieval England$
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Cordelia Beattie

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199283415

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199283415.001.0001

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The Single Woman in Guild Texts

The Single Woman in Guild Texts

(p.96) 4 The Single Woman in Guild Texts
Medieval Single Women

Cordelia Beattie (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter first considers what prompts the use of the category ‘single woman’ in some guild returns of 1388-9. The contention is that the category carries with it connotations of the legal construct femme sole, that is, a woman who was not under coverture and thus was legally and economically independent. The chapter then turns to guild registers and account books, which record the entry and transactions of individual members. It focuses on the Register of the Guild of the Holy Cross, Stratford-upon-Avon, which continues to uses the categories ‘maiden’ and ‘widow’ for unmarried women but introduces the vernacular term ‘sengilman’ for unmarried (probably never-married) men in the 15th century. This again suggests that the classification of individuals entailed value-laden choices and one must consider the potentially different moral associations of categories.

Keywords:   guild returns, guild registers, femme sole, maiden, widow, Stratford-upon-Avon

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