This book explores how women of the poorer and middling sorts in early modern England negotiated a patriarchal culture in which they were generally excluded, marginalized, or subordinated. It focuses on the networks of close friends ('gossips') which gave them a social identity beyond the narrowly domestic, providing both companionship and practical support in disputes with husbands and with neighbours of either sex. The book also examines the micropolitics of the
household, with its internal alliances and feuds, and women's agency in neighbourhood politics, exercised by shaping local public opinion, exerting pressure on parish officials, and through the role of informal female juries. If women did not openly challenge male supremacy, they could often play a
significant role in shaping their own lives and the life of the local community.
`Review from hardback edition
[Carp] skilfully pieces together a history of women from disparate sources ... The result is that we gain new insights that deepen our understanding of them ... Capp's book is a measured and carefully crafted study of the domestic and neighbourhood politics of gender, family and household.'
Continuity and Change
`Review from previous edition This is an important and extremely readable book which distils an enormous amount of research. Though not stridently argumentative it is exceedingly original in its approach and in its conclusions. As an attempt to uncover the strategies used by women in early modern England to negotiate the constraints imposed on them by a male-dominated society Capp has put us all in his debt. He has made a significant contribution to
depicting women's roles and their place in the functioning of local communities.'
Social History Society Bulletin
`[Capp] draws on the records of the church courts, supplemented by a wide variety of other sources, to make up a penetrating, sensitive and brilliantly vivid picture of the prejudices and problems with which contemporary women were faced and the strategies they developed in coping with them.'
Times Literary Supplement
2: Patriarchy and the World of Gossips
3: Families and Gossips: The Experience of Marriage
4: Maidservants and the Politics of the Household
5: Women and Neighbours: Female Disputes
6: Women and Neighbours: Disputes with Men
7: Women as Citizens: Public and Political Life
8: Recreation, Religion, and Female Culture
Bibliography of Unpublished Sources