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

By Allyson M. Poska | Go to book overview

6
Modelling Female Authority

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

In Galicia, women’s authority and their consequent ability to negotiate their relationships with men were rooted in their relative access to economic resources, no matter how meagre. To the degree that any peasant people could, Galegas used these resources to maintain some control over their lives and destinies and to influence friends and family. Although women never excluded male family members from their circles of financial and emotional care and concern, they dedicated considerable time, energy, and resources to creating flourishing horizontal and vertical networks with other women. However, these networks were about more than just property and money. In addition to providing sisters, daughters, granddaughters, and nieces with the necessities of life, older women acted as models and transmitters of gender expectations. They socialized other women to function in a society that was home to fewer men with every passing decade. From generation to generation, mothers raised daughters to be the heads of households and the focus of family life.1 Daily, daughters witnessed their mothers making a wide array of agricultural and household decisions. By observing their mothers, aunts, and older sisters, they learned how to successfully manage small farms, sell fish, grow and spin linen, and harvest grapes. Young girls saw single mothers or other women living in households without men, caring for their children, providing for their families, and managing familial estates. In the recent past, anthropologists have found that families socialized their daughters

1 According to David Gilmore, ‘in dominating the domestic realm, women have de facto control of socialization and of cultural indoctrination; and, to invoke the adage, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, at least in peasant villages…’ (‘Domestic Power’, 954).

-193-

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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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