Women and Authority in Early Modern Spain: The Peasants of Galicia

By Allyson M. Poska | Go to book overview

3
Sex and the Single Woman

It is better to be a concubine than badly married.
Mejor amancebada que mal casada.

An early modern Spanish saying

In 1677, Ana García de Prada and Antonio Dovale broke up for the second time. The first time around, Antonio had promised Ana that they would get married someday and, trusting that promise, Ana had agreed to a sexual relationship. Eventually, she bore Antonio a daughter, but not before their relationship began to sour. When he refused to marry her, Ana took him to court. Although Antonio denied that he had promised marriage, he agreed to pay Ana 30 ducados for her dowry and lost virginity and to provide child support for their daughter. But the story of the unhappy couple does not end there. The couple reunited and, according to Ana, Antonio again promised to marry her. They moved in together, Ana became pregnant, and she bore a son named Salvador. When Antonio refused to fulfil his promise of marriage, she sought financial support for their second child. According to their agreement, she freed Antonio to marry whomever he pleased as long as he paid 21 ducados for the care of the child.

How was this possible? According to the works of many early modern Spanish writers, a woman who lost her virginity irreparably dishonoured herself and her family. She would be ostracized from the community and forced into seclusion and permanent celibacy. However, rather than being shamed, Ana, who had borne two illegitimate children and cohabitated with a man at least once, used the legal system to press for her rights. The couple had never formalized their relationship with public marriage vows or even a marriage contract. Nevertheless, Ana emerged from the relationship with custody of her children and child support

-75-

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Women and Authority in Early Modern Spain: The Peasants of Galicia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Maps and Illustration viii
  • A Note on Currency and Measures ix
  • Introduction- Gendering - Peasant Society 1
  • 1 - Women without Men 22
  • 2 - Single Women and Property 41
  • 3 - Sex and the Single Woman 75
  • 4 - ‘A Married Man Is a Woman’- Gender Tensions in Galician Marriages 112
  • 5 - Widowhood 163
  • 6 - Modelling Female Authority 193
  • 7 - Beyond Finisterre 228
  • Bibliography 247
  • Index 267
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