Sofonisba Anguissola, The Chess Game, 1555, oil on canvas, National Museum Poznań.

The Autumn issue of Women’s History will be a special edition, concentrating on the life experiences of Early Modern women and exploring the novel and ingenious ways that women were able to encourage, promote and effect change within their own lives and their own environments – this sphere of influence often extending to those within their familial and social ambits. Accordingly, we invite proposals for articles on the following theme:

‘I am a woman and I will shame you all the same’: female agency and its effect on the Early Modern global stage.[i]

While not entirely neglected in Early Modern historiography, the voices of women do not possess anything like the same resonance as the tones of their male counterparts, whose presence as actors on the Early Modern stage dominated this world. Unlike proceeding eras however, where sporadic soundbites of women’s voices managed to permeate the persistent male oration, the Early Modern period (1350-1750), with its philosophical crusade known as Humanism, the almost simultaneous rise of literature pertaining to and created by women and the continuing theoretical and theological debates on women’s roles and qualities, provided a unique milieu that permitted more women to speak. Furthermore, as Margaret L. King states, ‘they not only speak, but they assert their right to speak and define themselves by speaking.’[ii] With the understanding that the Early Modern era marks a new advent of female agency, which reaches beyond patrician, privileged and high-profile females, we seek proposals that might focus on:

Women and the Law 

  • The experiences of women in ecclesiastical, manorial, royal and provincial courts.
  • Contemporary constructions of gender and how these notions affected the prosecution or acquittal of women.

Women as Actors in the Theatres of Everyday Life[iii]

  • The roles of women within lay confraternities.
  •  Women’s employment of urban or rural communal spaces for domestic, collective, religious, commercial or festive activities.
  • Women testators: the people and objects they valued, their legacies, their final expressions of piety or charity.
  • Working women.
  • Religious women.

Women and Violence

  • Women as victims or perpetrators of physical, sexual or psychological violence.
  • Depictions of gendered violence in coeval art.
  • Women’s experiences of self-harm.
  • Enslaved women.

Women and Material Culture

  • Proposals that concentrate on women’s social reality, using data extrapolated from objects that were created by women, consumed by women or exchanged by women. For example, writings, clothes, art, architecture, domestic objects, weapons – in fact any object produced by human endeavour.

Proposals should include the proposer’s name, academic affiliation, email, the paper title and a short abstract (150 words). 

Please note that this is a call for proposals only: draft articles of between 3000 and 6000 words are only required once the ‘call’ stage is complete and proposals have been accepted for publication. 

Please submit your proposal to Dr Samantha J.C. Hughes-Johnson at by 26 February, 2021

[i][i] A quotation taken from the trial of Filippa, a Florentine woman accused of slander and tried at the Podesta in 1375. Reproduced in Samuel K. Cohn Jr., Women in the Streets: Essays on Sex and Power in Renaissance Italy, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press (1996) 16. 

[ii] Margaret L. King, ‘Women’s Voices, the Early Modern, and the Civilization of the West.’ In Shakespeare Studies, vol.25 (1997) 21.

[iii] Sharon T. Strocchia, ‘Theaters of Everyday Life.’ In Renaissance Florence: A Social History, eds. Roger J. Crum and John T. Paoletti, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2006) 55-82.

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