City Women is a major new study of the lives of ordinary women in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century London. Drawing on thousands of pages of Londoners' depositions for the consistory court, it focuses on the challenges that preoccupied London women as they strove for survival and preferment in the burgeoning metropolis. Balancing new demographic data with vivid case studies, Eleanor Hubbard explores the advantages and dangers that the city had to offer, from women's first arrival in London as migrant maidservants, through the vicissitudes of marriage, widowhood, and old age.
In early modern London, women's opportunities were tightly restricted. Nonetheless, before 1640 the city's unique demographic circumstances provided unusual scope for marital advancement, and both maids and widows were quick to take advantage of this. Similarly, moments of opportunity emerged when the powerful sexual anxieties that associated women's speech and mobility with loose behaviour came into conflict with even more powerful anxieties about the economic stability of households and communities. As neighbours and magistrates sought to reconcile their competing priorities in cases of illegitimate pregnancy, marital disputes, working wives, remarrying widows, and more, women were able to exploit the resulting uncertainty to pursue their own ends. By paying close attention to the aspirations and preoccupations of London women themselves, their daily struggles, small triumphs, and domestic tragedies, City Women provides a valuable new perspective on the importance and complexity of women's roles in the growing capital, and on the pragmatic nature of early modern English society as a whole.
This book deserves a wide audience and should become a staple on university reading lists in English and history courses. * H-Albion *
impressive in the depth of its archival research, sophistication of it quantitative analyses, and inventive in its collective biography. It will be both a major intervention in its field and an indispensable resource for scholars. * Best Book on Women and Gender 2012 Prize Committee, Society for the Study of Early Modern Women *
This highly readable monograph by Eleanor Hubbard is a first-rate addition to a historiography that has sought to understand how the rigid gender ideals evidenced in early modern prescriptive literature affected ordinary people. * Fiona Williamson, European History Quarterly *
Hubbard does an excellent job of drawing out individual voices and stories from the records; combined with a very attractive prose style and well-presented figures and tables, these make this an uncommonly accessible book. * Margaret R. Hunt, History Workshop Journal *
This is a beautifully written and wide-ranging monograph with useful new quantitative and qualitative material on various aspects of women's lives ... it leaves the reader wanting to know more about the lives of early modern women. * Tim Reinke-Williams, Journal of the Northern Renaissance *
City Women is an engrossing monograph that brings the communities of early modern London to life, and makes a valuable contribution to urban, gender, and family history. * Catriona M. Macleod, Family & Community History *
1: In Search of Preferment
2: Making a Match
3: Maidservants Adrift
4: Household Mistresses
5: Public Lives
6: Her Honest Labour
7: Dealing with Death