Maids, Wives, Widows: Exploring Early Modern Women's Lives, 1540-1740

Maids, Wives, Widows: Exploring Early Modern Women's Lives, 1540-1740

by Sara Read

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A broad-ranging exploration of the everyday lives of women—from social calls to medical needs—during one of English history’s most fascinating periods.
Maids, wives, and widows were the official classifications of women according to English law in the early modern era, immediately following the medieval period. In this fascinating study of the time, historian Sara Read shows “how varied, rich, joyous, and sociable early modern women’s lives were, not to mention just how busy or difficult they could be” (Read, from the introduction).
Read delves into how these women filled their days, including vivid details of what they liked to eat and drink, what jobs they held, and how they raised their children. With chapters devoted to beauty regimes, fashion, and literature, the book examines the cultural and domestic aspects of life, as well as how women understood and dealt with their monthly periods and what it was like to give birth in a time before modern obstetric care was available.

Maids, Wives, Widows also highlights key moments in women’s history such as the 1671 publication of the first midwifery guide by Jane Sharp; the turmoil caused by the Civil Wars of the 1640s; the various new religious sects in which women participated to a surprising extent; and many others. Also scrutinized are cases of notorious criminals such as murderer Sarah Malcolm and confidence trickster Mary Toft who pretended to give birth to rabbits.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781473859586
Publisher: Pen & Sword Books Limited
Publication date: 05/30/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 213,706
File size: 23 MB
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About the Author

Dr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. She holds a PhD in early modern literature. Her particular interest is in representations of the female body in literature and she has published widely in this field. Her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013, and she has co-edited a collection of early modern women’s writings on the topic of health and spirituality called Flesh and Spirit: An Anthology of Seventeenth-century Women’s Writing for Manchester University Press, 2014. In addition, Dr Read has published a number of social history articles for Discover Your Ancestors magazine.

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