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Journal > Volumes > 42 (2011) / 1 (Spring)
The Coverture of Widowhood: Heterodox Female Publishers in Antwerp, 1530–1580
Victoria Christman
Luther College

This article explores the publishing activities of five widowed women in mid-sixteenth-century Antwerp. These widows were notable in that they produced scores of religiously heterodox texts in a period in which imperial and papal legislation was growing increasingly stringent with regard to such crimes. Despite this legal pressure, these women managed to conduct their illicit businesses for half a century without incurring any form of judicial censure. Their situation begs the question why they were able to break the law with such impunity, when their male colleagues were routinely tried, and occasionally executed, for the same infractions. The conclusion argued here is that the widows’ success was the result of the confluence of both the freedoms they enjoyed as specifically Netherlandish widows (a category of women extremely different from their Europen counterparts) and the tacit cooperation of the local authorities, who turned a blind eye to their illegal activities, in direct contravention of imperial and papal mandates.

Pages: 77 - 97