Maids and Mistresses, Cousins and Queens: Women's Alliances in Early Modern England

Maids and Mistresses, Cousins and Queens: Women's Alliances in Early Modern England

Maids and Mistresses, Cousins and Queens: Women's Alliances in Early Modern England

Maids and Mistresses, Cousins and Queens: Women's Alliances in Early Modern England

Synopsis

This collection of sixteen essays considers evidence for the array of women's alliances in early modern England. The inclusions range over a variety of communities--cities, households, and court--and consider classes of women from vagabonds to queens to explore the traces of women's connections. These clear and lively interdisciplinary essays, combining literary and historical methods and materials, are informed by feminism, queer theory, and studies of race in the early modern period.

Excerpt

This collection of essays explores how early modern women associated with other women in a variety of roles, from alewives to midwives, prostitutes to pleasure seekers, slaves to queens, servingmaids to ladies in waiting, mothers to vagrants, and transvestites to authors. Bringing together a variety of literary and historic texts, material culture and social practice, these essays examine for the first time the complexity of the "alliances" or relationships among English women during the 250-year period between 1450 and 1700. In particularizing women's economic, intellectual, social, racial, political, and familial relations, the collection reveals the complexity of women's associations and the importance of men in mediating and disrupting these associations, as well as the frequency with which women were connected and separated by issues of race, class, and ethnicity.

This book's use of the term "alliances" is meant to signal women's deliberate associations. The study of men's alliances is far advanced, because male economic, political, intellectual, and military relationships constitute such well-known and well-studied institutions as guilds, parliament, the university, and the military. While the gap between the study of men in groups and women in groups is understandable because the activity of men has been so much more public and recorded, the need for the study of women's alliances has grown in proportion to our in-

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