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Maids, Wives, Widows: Exploring Early Modern Women's Lives 1540 - 1714 Hardcover – 18 May 2015
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About the Author
Dr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. She holds a PhD in early modern literature. Her particular interest is in representations of the female body in literature and she has published widely in this field. Her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013, and she has co-edited a collection of early modern women's writings on the topic of health and spirituality called Flesh and Spirit: An Anthology of Seventeenth-century Women's Writing for Manchester University Press, 2014. In addition, Dr Read has published a number of social history articles for Discover Your Ancestors magazine.
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Women were not always as restricted in role as some might think for the time.
Maids, Wives, Widows 1540-1740 uses the three titles by which a woman would have been known during this period and is a warts and all, fascinating and detailed overview of the day to day events of women from all levels of society at this time.
Dr. Sara Read covers all the key elements, from what a good wife was deemed to be, dress, hygiene, food and drink (and responsibility for making beer!), criminals, the arts, pregnancy, birth and raising their children to adulthood. Breastfeeding and menstruation were (and indeed still are) key moments in women’s lives and these are also included in detail, though one might have already expected this to be an insightful section of the book as the authors first work was entitled Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England.
This is not a book you have to read from cover to cover, though in order to better understand the subject I would recommend this, but it is also a history that can be used to dip in to. Family and Local historians will find a wealth of detail to bring to life some of the names and dates of their ancestors, from the quirky and unfamiliar to other things that will have a more modern day echo.
The story of Samuel Pepys going down into his cellar and stepping into a pile of excrement courtesy of his neighbour being behind in employing the night soil men is a new one to me! Though women do seem in general not to have had to do this job – night soil men were not cheap – but even my own humble ancestors employed them.
This has been a thoroughly enjoyable, eye-opening read from an author who writes confidently about a subject that she knows so well and is obviously close to her heart. If you want to understand the historical role of women between 1540 and 1740 then don’t go searching through Amazon books, this one is by far the best place to start. I just hope there is to be a second volume perhaps from 1240-1540? Keep up the good work Sara.