Philobiblon: How women disappear from history: an Elizabethan example

Monday, February 20, 2006

How women disappear from history: an Elizabethan example

In 1597 churches in England were ordered to keep their official registers (baptisms, marriages and burials) on parchment. The originals earlier in Elizabeth's reign had been written in paper.

In Rolleston, Nottinghamshire, the vicar, Robert Leband (in post between 1583 and 1625) often recorded details of the lives of the people he buried. One of this small obituaries was about the centenarian Joane Caley. It ran to 81 words in the original. In the official parchment copy the entry read "Joane Caley an ould woman".

Only the lucky survival of the original paper means that Joane has not been lost forever. The vicar who knew her thought she was important, some clerk who may not have didn't think an "old woman" worth any special notice.

From Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England by Peter Marshall, OUP, 2002, p. 292. (Which is, by the way, excellent.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, it might also reflecting shifting ideas of the type of recognition "good" women should get; as more restrictive forms of Protestantism took hold, in England and elsewhere, the concept that women's glory came from being a wife and mother, and nothing else was worth noting, may have been a factor.

2/22/2006 06:04:00 pm  

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