We asked members of Parergon‘s Early Career Committee to tell us about a Parergon article that really stood out for them and why they found it valuable for their research. In this post, Emma Simpson discusses Patricia Crawford’s ‘Women and Property: Women as Property’, Parergon 19.1 (2002), pp. 151-171 (DOI: doi.org/10.1353/pgn.2002.0086)
Those of us interested in early modern women owe a great debt to Patricia Crawford. The ANZAMEMS Crawford-Maddern network speaks to her personal legacy, one that builds on her extensive work in the field encompassing numerous monographs, articles, and edited collections.
Personally, Crawford and Gowing’s Women’s Worlds in Seventeenth-Century England was an early introduction to research around early modern women, and I returned to Crawford’s work when beginning my dissertation. Though my focus has since shifted from women writers in a male-dominated genre to representations of women within that genre itself, Crawford’s work still influences the historicist approach I take in my work. Indeed, she remains important across disciplines, and her 2002 Parergon article “Women and Property: Woman as Property” is no exception.
Here, Crawford explores how early modern women functioned as property, what rights they had to property and freedom, and how this affected their ability to act autonomously. She suggests that “three interlocking variables affected a woman’s right to property”: the “status” of women as a category, the “complex system of jurisdictions” which comprised early modern law, and the definition of property itself. But in outlining difficulties for women in the early modern period, Crawford also carefully establishes the ways in which these women could and did “circumvent the restrictions of the common law” (154). She further contextualises her important discussion of gendered restrictions in the period with reference to shifting political and class hierarchies.
Though interested largely in the eighteenth century, “Women and Property: Women as Property” serves as a useful introduction not only to important work on early modern women, but also as an introduction to Crawford and her broader work, as one of Australia’s important voices on women in the early modern period.
Parergon can be accessed via Project MUSE (from Volume 1 (1983)), Australian Public Affairs – Full Text (from 1994), and Humanities Full Text (from 2008). For more information on the current issue and on submitting manuscripts for consideration, please visit https://parergon.org/.