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A Bitter LivingWomen, Markets, and Social Capital in Early Modern Germany$
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Sheilagh Ogilvie

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205548

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205548.001.0001

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Independent Unmarried Women

Independent Unmarried Women

(p.269) CHAPTER SIX Independent Unmarried Women
A Bitter Living


Oxford University Press

This chapter directs attention to a widely neglected but important group of pre-industrial women — the independent unmarried. Such women became very numerous in the pre-industrial German society under analysis in this book because lifetime celibacy rose to over twenty percent by the later 18th-century. A database of work observations extracted from church-court records is used to analyse the work of independent unmarried women and compare it with that of other females (and males). These findings are then compared with these women's livelihoods in an 18th-century economic census, and multivariate analysis is used to identify the factors encouraging economic independence by unmarried females. Alternative theories of the technological, cultural, and institutional determinants of economic activity by unmarried females are then explored using qualitative data. The chapter analyses the factors constraining independent unmarried women's economic position, which included the ‘social capital’ of local communities, craft guilds, and merchant guilds.

Keywords:   spinsterhood, celibacy, craft guild, community, social capital, Germany, Württemberg

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