Not All Wives: Women of Colonial Philadelphia

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Cornell University Press, 2000 - History - 217 pages
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Marital status was a fundamental legal and cultural feature of women's identity in the eighteenth century. Free women who were not married could own property and make wills, contracts, and court appearances, rights that the law of coverture prevented their married sisters from enjoying. Karin Wulf explores the significance of marital status in this account of unmarried women in Philadelphia, the largest city in the British colonies. In a major act of historical reconstruction, Wulf draws upon sources ranging from tax lists, censuses, poor relief records, and wills to almanacs, newspapers, correspondence, and poetry in order to recreate the daily experiences of women who were never-married, widowed, divorced, or separated. With its substantial population of unmarried women, eighteenth-century Philadelphia was much like other early modern cities, but it became a distinctive proving ground for cultural debate and social experimentation involving those women. Arguing that unmarried women shaped the city as much as it shaped them, Wulf examines popular literary representations of marriage, the economic hardships faced by women, and the decisive impact of a newly masculine public culture in the late colonial period.
 

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Contents

Not All Wives The Problem of Marriage in Early America
1
Women Marriage and the Historical Literature
6
Situating Unmarried Women in Urban and Regional Cultures
11
On Sources and Methods
20
Martha Coopers Choice Literature and Mentality
25
Tyrants and Virgins
32
Liberated Spinsters
41
Reading Writing and Learning Singleness
45
Sisters Aunts and Cousins
106
Household Partnerships
110
Conclusion
115
Rachel Drapers Neighborhood Work and Community
119
Neighborhood Community
121
Womens Work and the Urban Economy
130
Marriage Work and Community
148
Conclusion
151

Conclusion
50
Elizabeth Norriss Reign Religion and Self
53
Quaker Culture and a Female Self
56
Marriage Religion and Female Individualism
70
Singleness and Radical Religious Community in Pennsylvania
75
Conclusion
81
Mary Sandwiths Spouse Family and Household
85
Gender and Household Hierarchy
88
Unmarried Women in Rural and Urban Households
90
Widows Keeping House
97
Servants and Slaves
102
Ann Dunlaps Great Want Poverty and Public Policy
153
Poor Women and Poor Relief
156
Gender Dependence and PoorRelief Policy
166
Conclusion
179
Lydia Hydes Petition Property and Political Culture
181
Property and Political Authority
187
From Property to Masculinity
195
Women Marriage and the Transformation of Political Culture
200
Conclusion
206
Index
211
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About the author (2000)

assistant Professor of History at American University.

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