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How did women in 16th century western Europe cope with the consequences of being considered inherently sinful--as well as being legally and economically subordinate to their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons? What might become of a woman unable to raise a dowry? What were the difficulties faced by spinsters, single mothers, and widows? In this brilliant investigation into the lives of women from all social strata, Hufton leads us from poor-house to palazzo, from cradle to grave, illuminating what it meant to be female in western Europe during the years 1500 to 1800.
"A major effort at synthesis...Ms. Hufton has a keen eye for the extraordinary interest in ordinary detail."
--The New York Times Book Review
Introduction: The Limits of the Possible and Questions of Change
1. Constructing Woman
2. The Strategic Plan: Marriage as Goal
3. Finding a Partner, or Questions of Choice
4. On Being a Wife
7. Of Difference, of Shame and of Abuse
8. Kept Mistresses and Common Strumpets
9. Women and the Devil
10. Obedient to Thy Will
11. Corresponding Gentlewomen, Shameless Scribblers, Drudges of the Pen and the Emergence of the Critic
12. The Woman Rioter or the Riotous Woman?
13. The Moving Finger?