Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Their Lives, Their Wills: Women in the Borderlands, 1750-1846

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Their Lives, Their Wills: Women in the Borderlands, 1750-1846

Article excerpt

Their Lives, Their Wills: Women in the Borderlands, 1750-1846. By Amy M. Porter. Women, Gender, and the West. (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2015. Pp. xviii, 192. Paper, $39.95, ISBN 978-0-89672-932-2.)

Amy M. Porter weaves together the social and economic conditions of five northern borderlands communities--San Esteban, Saltillo, San Antonio, Santa Fe, and El Paso--during the late Spanish period and the Mexican period. She meticulously analyzes the last testaments written by wealthy women and men from each of these settlements. Through her examination, many aspects of society are evident, particularly the fact that these regions were populated, that there was considerable commerce, and that women and men were well informed of their rights as landowners and citizens.

Wealthy women and men wrote detailed descriptions of what they owned at the time of their death, including material goods--such as furniture--promissory notes, land, farm animals, and servants, all of which had value and could be passed on to children, relatives, or even a surviving spouse. Individual testators made preparations for their afterlife, including paying in advance for masses said in their honor as well as for masses dedicated to loved ones who had passed to the next life before them. Wills were good indicators of the religious practices of individuals, their families, and the community in general.

Porter places more emphasis on wills written by women, the majority of whom were widows at the time of their death. She demonstrates that women were independent matriarchs and establishes that widowhood was an accepted stage in a woman's life. …

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