Date: Friday, Oct 19, 2018
In the second presentation in the 2018-2019 VIU Arts & Humanities Colloquium Series, Dr. Cathryn Spence from the History Department will discuss the practice of will-making by women in 16th-century Scotland. Wills also offer rich insights into the everyday world of ordinary people who lived in days gone by; says Spence, "when the majority of people owned relatively few possessions, the importance of those items cannot be overstated." While her presentation addresses the wills written by single women (widows, servants, and never-married women), for the most part it examines the will-making practices of wives. Testament-writing was theoretically open to all members of society in early modern Scotland, but a married woman still required her husband’s consent to write a will. This raises a number of questions, and in the presentation Spence considers the proportion of surviving sixteenth-century Scottish wills that were written by women (and by wives in particular), as well as how the practice of will-making was affected by whether one was a man or a woman. She also looks at the significance of marital status in influencing a woman’s ability to write a will.
How these women chose to distribute their worldly goods, and the exhortations and rebukes that accompanied their bequests, provide a window into everyday life in the sixteenth century. The wills also allow insights into the economic activities these women engaged in during their lives. For historians, they also broaden understandings of relations between men and women in the early modern period, and they expose the nature of family ties. “Ultimately,” says Spence, “the information contained in these wills gives a lively voice to the departed as they articulate long-overlooked details of the lives, relationships, and emotions of these women.”
This event is free. Come early for coffee, cookies, and conversation in the theatre foyer.