Medieval Europe 814-1350: Family and Social Trends Research Article from World Eras

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The Independence of Widows. In the High Middle Ages single women were supervised by their fathers, and wives were controlled by their husbands. Widows, however, were able to exercise considerable personal and economic independence—despite changes in inheritance customs, property law, and marriage provisions that had significantly weakened women's economic autonomy. Some widows were poor, and law, morality, and social conventions considered them among the most vulnerable members of society, but many women found widowhood the most pleasant stage of life.

Economic Advantages. On the death of her husband, a widow was given back her dowry, had the use of her dower, and frequently was the executor of her husband's estate and guardian of the children. All these responsibilities were hers by law and by right, without male supervision. In the highest ranks of society a widow might...

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This section contains 1,813 words
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Buy the Medieval Europe 814-1350: Family and Social Trends Encyclopedia Article
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Medieval Europe 814-1350: Family and Social Trends from Gale. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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