tudor women

"Why, you are nothing then: neither maid, widow, nor wife": separated wives in early modern England

4:00pm - 5:30pm / Wednesday 17th February 2021
Type: Seminar / Category: Research / Series: Liverpool Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
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Professor Froide is a leading scholar of early modern gender, and her social and cultural histories of women during this period have greatly expanded our understanding of female lives between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. We’re delighted to host her as part of our LCMRS 2019-20 seminar series.

This paper will explore Professor Froide’s recent work on separated women in early modern England, where nothing determined a woman's identity more than her marital status. Whether a woman was single, married, or widowed determined her legal, social, and economic opportunities. But in an era when the average person had no access to divorce, there was a fourth category of women: separated wives.

These women had married but lived apart from their spouses, either informally or via a legal separation. Neither married nor unmarried, such women occupied a liminal position both socially and legally. This paper will examine the experiences of separated wives, to determine how these women negotiated their intermediate marital status.