History, Department of


Date of this Version



Alvarez, Alyson. A Widow’s Will: Examining the Challenges of Widowhood in Early Modern England and America. master's thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2013.


A THESIS Presented by the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of the Master of Arts, Major: History, Under the Supervision of Professor Carole Levin. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2013

Copyright 2013 Alyson Alvarez


While English women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had different social and economic circumstances, many were able to gain autonomy and power in their widowhood. Widows who were able to gain autonomy faced a number of challenges as they attempted to live and function in a patriarchal society. One of the factors that affected the challenges of a widow was her social standing. In this thesis I argue that widows of all means encountered a challenges from the patriarchal society in which they resided. The number and severity of difficulties that a widow confronted depended on several factors. I will begin by examining the lives of aristocratic widows and the difficulties they confronted most often. This essay will then look at how working women dealt with the problems that arose after their husbands’ deaths. Finally, I analyze how the actions of patriarchal society in England affected and influenced the treatment widows in colonial America.

Adviser: Carole Levin