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English Noblewomen in the Later Middle Ages

These chronicles have their faults, however, beyond the fact that they do not primarily or specifically cover the activities of women. Although these chronicles do deal with women in their more traditional roles, they have weaknesses even in that area. For example, "It was very rare for any chronicler to describe character and personality, whether of men or women, except in very general terms" (4).

Therefore, Ward had to go to more personal accounts to further fill in the gaps in the record with respect to women, their roles, and their characters as expressed in those roles. "Royal and legal records" (5) are such depositories of information also consulted by Ward, but they, too, give essentially a general overview of women's roles, and, once again, they yield only portraits of limited traditional roles for women which were seen as legitimate and acceptable in that era. In addition, then, Ward makes ample use of more personal records such as household accounts, wills and letters.

In her effort to describe and understand the various roles played by women in the later Middle Ages, Ward examines these records for information on such areas as marriage, land ownership by widows of the noble class, the household, lifestyle and travel, children, kinsmen and friends, estates and revenue, lordship and patronage, and religious practice. In order to give her examination a stronger thread of coherence and continuity, the author use


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