Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 10401
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Watson , Laura.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Disposal of Paston Daughters [Family plans for boarding and for marriage.]
  • Source: Sovereign Lady: Essays on Women in Middle English Literature.  Edited by Muriel Whitaker.  Garland Publishing, 1995.  Pages 45 - 62.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Essay
  • Subject (See Also): Boarding Daughters Marriage Paston Family Social History
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 15
  • Related Resources: "Medieval marriage as a system of economic and social exchange is clearly illustrated in the letters of the Paston family, and Laura Watson's essay on "The Disposal of the Paston Daughters" develops this very nicely. The historical background provided in "The Paston Letters and Papers" gives us a valuable insight into the social practices of the time, especially with regard to marriage. Daughters were either an encumbrance to a family or a means of moving forward in society. "...[T]he 'best' match was determined according to the criteria of wealth, property, family, and social position." (46) The three daughters discussed in this essay are Elizabeth, daughter of Agnes and William I, and her nieces Margery and Anne, the daughters of her brother John I and Margaret. Marriage negotiations were conducted by the families involved (a young man could negotiate an alliance on his own) with little or no consideration of the daughter's feelings in the matter. When Margery acted on her own and pledged herself to Richard Calle, the bailiff on the family estate, her mother and brothers attempted to discourage the young woman from following through on her promise. Their efforts were unsuccessful much to the dissatisfaction of her family. Her younger sister Anne also fell in love with a servant but was eventually married to another man who agreed to marry her "iff she had hyre mony, and ellis nott." (58) Although these letters reveal the passivity expected of marriageable women, all three Paston daughters showed spirit and a limited amount of determination in their own regard. We can look forward to many of Shakespeare's heroines who similarly display a zest for self-determination." From the review written by Elizabeth Walsh of "Sovereign Lady," "Medieval Review" (TMR ID: 96.12.11). [Reproduced by permission of the "Medieval Review."].
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  • Year of Publication: 1995.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: Not Available
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