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Wives or Widows and their Representatives
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.
2012 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of History, ISSN 0346-8755, E-ISSN 1502-7716, Vol. 37, no 1, 49-68 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The main purpose of this article is to scrutinize the opportunities married women had to administer their inheritance and reversions compared to widows' opportunities to administer their inheritance, dower and share from the former marriage. It has been claimed that medieval women had to wait until they were widowed to take charge over their own property. In this article I challenge this view. I argue that a noble woman's opportunities to act independently depended on the origins of the property she wanted to sell, and if male representatives from that family laid claim to the land or not.

I investigate all written transactions carried out by freeholders and transactions carried out by noble families in two different regions in present-day Sweden during the period from 1300 to 1500. I establish in what type of transactions the women stood as sole executors in the charters, and if they were named as wives or as widows. I also investigate if they participated in varied forms of transactions when widowed compared to when they were in marriage.

The principal result is that the wife of a freeholder did not execute deeds herself. This was done by her husband or, when she was young, by her brother. It was extremely rare that a woman of this status administered her inheritance herself, due to the stronger pre-emptive rights for men besides the brother in Jämtland. As wealthy widows, however, women in this position sometimes executed deeds, presumably because their brothers were dead. Noble women administered their property more frequently. Their pre-emptive rights were stronger and they therefore had more property to dispose of. In the absence of men from the noble family from where the land originated, noble women could act independently, irrespective of if they were widows or wives.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 37, no 1, 49-68 p.
Keyword [en]
women, marital status, representatives, consent, pre-emptive rights, landed property, late medieval Scandinavia
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-83408DOI: 10.1080/03468755.2011.643568OAI: diva2:575608
Available from: 2012-12-10 Created: 2012-12-10 Last updated: 2016-09-08Bibliographically approved

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Bjarne Larsson, Gabriela
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