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

By Allyson M. Poska | Go to book overview

5
Widowhood

How content was I the day I married;
but now I am even more so, since I was left a widow.

Galician proverb

Unlike wealthy Spanish women, most widowed Galegas could not withdraw from the world into the quiet life of the convent after the deaths of their husbands. Although the contemporary literature is filled with scenes of demure Spanish widows renouncing their homes and inheritances in favour of a life of piety and prayer, as I have already discussed, retirement to a convent was an expensive option generally unavailable to women from the lower classes. Moreover, this option probably did not appeal to most Galician women, who were accustomed to considerable economic and social independence. For many, the transition would not have been too traumatic, as both the extended period of singleness as a young woman and the responsibilities of married life left Galegas well prepared for their tenures as widows. Many women had already served as de facto heads of households during their husbands’ absences. Even those women whose husbands had remained at home understood and had experience with family finances, the management of the farm, and the legal system. They were accustomed to the rigours of rural life and in the habit of making important economic decisions. Before their husbands died, their hard work and financial acumen had earned them the respect of their families and communities. Nevertheless, widowhood brought some new experiences and responsibilities. The few legal constraints that had bound a married woman and her property to her husband immediately disappeared upon his death. In addition to the grief that accompanied the death of their spouses, some women faced the decision of whether to remarry, the

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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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