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Women's Lives in the Tudor Era (Hardback)

P&S History > British History > Tudors & Stuarts P&S History > By Century > 15th Century P&S History > By Century > 16th Century P&S History > By Century > 17th Century P&S History > Royal History Women of History

By Amy McElroy
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 200
Illustrations: 30 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399042000
Published: 14th March 2024



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Women in the Tudor age are often overshadowed by their male counterparts. Even those of royalty were deemed inferior to males. Whilst women may have been classed as the inferior gender, women played a vital role in Tudor society.

As daughters, mothers and wives they were expected to be obedient to the man of the household, but how effective would those households be without the influence of women?

Many opportunities including much formal education and professions were closed to women, their early years spent imitating their mothers before learning to run a household in preparation for marriage. Once married their responsibilities would vary greatly according to their social status and rank. Widowhood left some in vulnerable conditions while for others it enabled them to make a life for themselves and become independent in a largely patriarchal society.

Women’s Lives in the Tudor Era aims to look at the roles of women across all backgrounds and how expectations of them differed during the various stages of life.

'Women’s Lives in the Tudor Era' aims to focus on the life stages of women and the differences experienced by these women due to their social standing.

McElroy divides up women's lives into 9 sections: growing up, adolescence, brides, married life, motherhood, working women, recreation, widowhood and wills left by women. I particularly enjoyed the sections on growing up, brides and working women.

While the educations received by Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey are well documented, what was really interesting to learn about were the different educational establishments available such as Dame schools and petty schools, which girls could attend when not helping their families.

Katherine and Mary Grey are both known for falling foul of Elizabeth I for marrying without consent, but the author highlights that the records show that this was a particular problem among the middle classes but that the lower classes could not afford to bring court proceedings.

I hadn't realised how many roles were available to women, that children could be apprenticed by the parish as young as 4 or that this was one of 3 types of service, the others being a contract in husbandry and domestic service.

I would say that McElroy certainly succeeds in her aim, as I came away with a clear understanding of what life was like for Tudor women.

NetGalley, Tamise Hills

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Women’s Lives In The Tudor Era is an interesting look into just how diverse and hard women in that time period lived. Women had little to no rights, and were considered chattel to both their husbands and fathers, and were often bargained or traded for advantageous matches for the family. Although I knew a lot of information, having always loved this time period and have had a strong fascination for history, this book showed some of the major differences in lifestyles. Rank had so much to do with every aspect of their lives, from the kind of work they preformed, their education if they received them at all, to marriages. It was interesting reading just how much women were expected to compete in a day.

The book is very well written with a myriad of information. The author definitely did her research as the book. I loved how she shed light on a topic often ignored or overshadowed. While the book sometimes felt repetitive, for the most part it was a great learning experience.

NetGalley, Carolyn Wyman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book was so interesting and made more so by the thorough research of the author.
It was very easy to follow. A great read that I know I will read again.

NetGalley, T B

This was a fascinating read about the lives of Tudor women. Highly informative, the author breaks down the chapters based on different life stages, starting in childhood and ending in widowhood, wills and death. She not only focused on the nobility, but women of all social classes and how life for them at each stage varied.

'Women's Lives in the Tudor Era' is a must have for any history, especially Tudor, enthusiast. It's engaging and easy to read, making it accessible to anyone, regardless of how much previous knowledge they have on the time period.

NetGalley, Danielle Holeman

An interesting book for anyone interested in history, particularly history of women. Well written with information about lots of different lifestyles.

NetGalley, Aubrey Kerr

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book presents the the vibrant lives and diverse roles of Tudor women. From royal courts to humble homes, they displayed their resilience as dutiful daughters learning to run a home, resourceful wives navigating the complexities of marriage and motherhood, and empowered widows forging their own paths. These women shaped the Tudor world in profound and subtle ways.

This well-researched book gives us a lively view into the Tudor world. It’s informative, engaging, and easy to read.

NetGalley, Andrea Romance

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In this incredible women’s history book about Tudor England, Amy McElroy shines a light on the many roles and duties that women took on in an incredibly patriarchal society. Focusing on the women at court and at homes, readers get to explore the multiple facets of women’s lives including religion, education, political activity, marriage, motherhood, and childhood. Supplying her readers with some incredible details and primary sources, McElroy focuses on women who made it into the historical record to build the narratives of those who were not recorded by historians. The depth of detail and insight into daily and exceptional moments of Tudor women’s lives in this book makes it immersive and incredibly fascinating for those interested in women’s history and in the Tudor period. Pairing this book with any other books about the Tudors, sixteenth century Europe, and sixteenth century womanhood would make for a fantastic read, as this book delves into the societal norms and historical contexts which informed the lives of many Tudor era women. McElroy’s prose and details really bring this book to life, and her latest book is absolutely enjoyable and immersive for all readers and easily understandable for those with backgrounds in history and those without.

NetGalley, Lily Amidon

Rating: 5 out 5 stars

A very interesting and well researched book, recommended if you are interested in women's or social history
Well written, easy to follow.
Highly recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

Very interesting book about the lives of women during the Tudor years. It is very well research. The author covers all spheres of society, from the poor to the rich; and all periods in the life of a woman, from birth until her death.

NetGalley, Karine Hickey

Very interesting read if you like history and a topic that is rarely ever touched on in history books: women. I love anything involving the Tudor era so this was right up my alley. Lots of interesting information.

NetGalley, Ashley Nicole

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A very nice book about the Tudor period, looking into the lives of people seldom mentioned in most historical documents and books.

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

Amy McElroy’s book makes an excellent contribution to knowledge about women’s lives in the Tudor era. She does not make the mistake of omitting the information about the more well-known female figures. Instead, there is an engaging back and forth between women’s lives as they were lived at court, those who served them, and those whose work and lives contributed to the society in which the exceptional figures of history raised their heads to occasionally join the more well-known history of their male counterparts. Yes, a great deal more is known about the royal women and those at court, but Amy McElroy makes their lives even more available in this work. However, where she really excels is in the wealth of research she has undertaken to make other women’s lives in this period more accessible.

The illustrations carry through this theme, from headdresses and other fashions, comparisons of clothing and royal images; various graphics of women spinning and another assisting in childbirth; a Tudor hospital and birthing furniture and scenes; to printed works. Notes accompany each chapter. There is an index and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources. The former includes a primer on governing a family, from the duties between husbands and wives to those associated with masters and servants. As expected, these works are those of the people in power, those who could read and write. The secondary sources include general histories of the period; tomes on women and property and women’s legal rights; women’s everyday lives; poverty and vagrancy; and women’s employment.

McElroy writes in a lively fashion, so that Tudor women’s lives become a vast story of the society in which court life and royalty have hitherto been the main protagonists. The conclusion is a joy to read, laying out as it does the evidence that Tudor women were remarkable in their influence over their own lives and those of their families, if not further afield. The importance of domestic initiatives, tasks and relationships are given their due through this thorough investigation of Tudor women’s lives.

NetGalley, Robin Joyce

Having read lots of historical fiction over the years, I didn't expect to find much new in this nonfiction book WOMEN'S LIVES IN THE TUDOR ERA. However, I found a lot I hadn't known, and a lot that still lingers in our culture in the U.S. today (thankfully not in our laws as was the case in the Tudor era).

Amy McElroy has done a thorough job of encapsulating women's lives in Tudor England in a way that makes sense, and is interesting to read. Divided into chapters based on women's chronological ages (from birth through childhood, marriage, widowhood, and death), and including an index at the end, this book would be a wonderful addition to any history writer's or history reader's bookshelf.

NetGalley, Lisa Stauffer

It was so easy to read and packed with useful information if you are at all interested in the Tudor era or the women of the period. It seemed very well researched, paced, organized and informative. I especially enjoyed the Will section, the Bride and the Lives of the Wives chapters. I was also pleasantly surprised to find a a summation chapter at the end which brought the whole book together for me.

NetGalley, Leslie Hall

An interesting look into women's lives during the Tudor Era from the reigns of Henry VII to Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch. Traversing from birth to adulthood, looking through class, race and age, Amy McElroy paints a fascinating look into the past in Women's history and how it may differ from some points we learn now. I found Women's Lives in the Tudor Era an interesting and well-researched read that is perfect for any history buff interested in the Tudor Era.

NetGalley, Megan Rose

Very well researched and written, Ms McElroy has laid out what life was like for average girls and women in the Tudor era.

I was impressed with this, while also being struck by the horrific conditions that females had to endure and survive.

I found this a fascinating look back and would recommend to those interested in the Tudor era.

NetGalley, Michelle Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

When we think about the Tudor dynasty, we often think about the famous men and women who defined the era. An era full of change in all aspects of life, from religious and political, to the arts and literature. Throughout these changes, we tend to focus on how they affected the lives of Tudor men, but there is a growing field of interest in the lives of the average Tudor women and how their lives were affected. In her latest book, “Women’s Lives in the Tudor Era,” Amy McElroy explores women's life stages in 16th-century England and how their roles changed.

I want to thank Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley for sending me a copy of this book. I enjoyed McElroy’s debut book, “Educating the Tudors,” and when I heard that she had another book about Tudor women, I knew I wanted to read it.

McElroy explains that like the centuries before and since the 16th century, it was riddled with negative views of women in all aspects of life. Women were seen as beneath men, which corresponded with the teachings of Aristotle. Wives, mothers, and daughters were supposed to be obedient and seen rather than heard. However, when we look at the different stages of life, we cannot separate the roles of women from everyday life.

To understand what it meant to be a Tudor woman, McElroy breaks down life into different stages, starting in childhood, going through adolescence, becoming a wife and mother, working life for women, how women relaxed, embracing widowhood, and finally, wills and death. Each stage of life is represented in a chapter in this book. McElroy takes the time to explore what it meant to be a woman at each stage of life and how their social standings changed. We see women receiving an education, going through courtships, getting married and becoming wives, starting their own families and the dangers of childbirth, how women earned a living, what they would do as recreational activities, and how they would survive if their husbands died. In each chapter, McElroy highlights women of different social statuses to show how they survived during the Tudor time.

This was an engrossing and utterly fascinating book. Some elements were completely new information for me, which was quite thrilling. The amount of details that McElroy included in such a short amount of pages was incredible. Another brilliant book by McElroy. If you want a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Tudor women, I highly recommend you read, “Women’s Lives in the Tudor Era” by Amy McElroy.

NetGalley, Heidi Malagisi

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love the Tudor era and thought this was a great way of introducing the unspoken women in the Tudor era. It was written well and had that historical nonfiction feel to it. I thought it was well-researched and left me wanting to read more from Amy McElroy.

NetGalley, Kathryn McLeer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Women's Lives in the Tudor Era by Amy McElroy is a fascinating account of a largely silent sector of Tudor society which although varied by status, still followed themes of a womans place being in the home and subserviently to men, even in royalty.

McElroy's account goes beyond the traditional roles and takes a deep dive into access to education, growing up and getting married. Could you imagine being denied education because of your gender? being put to work at the age of 6 or 7? This was the grim reality of girls in the Tudor era and this was not the only issue.

The role of Tudor wives (where essentially women were used as chattell and bargaining tools across the classes) raises the point of the age of marriage and it is noted, that in 1571, Juan Luis Vives advised that an age of 18 would be the earliest for marriage, when up to that point, girls as young as 12 and 14 were being forced into matrimony, The book also explores the role of motherhood and how the household was run and the dichotomy of the gender roles within while celebrating the role of the mother in the essential mechanism of running a home. Even Widowhood was feared, for it was almost impossible for a woman to survive due to rarely having the ability to earn an income unless it had been learned prior to or during marriage (which in itself was rare).

There is also a very intriguing section on the wills of widows and what happened to all their worldly belongings, if even they had any left at the time of their passing. A very interesting book and an entertaining quick read. Absolutely recommended.

NetGalley, Ink Reads

This is a fascinating and detailed look into the everyday lives of women in that time period. Every woman is covered from common folk to the aristocracy. Even a few of the royals are mentioned here and there... This is a must read if you are interested in the time period and especially in women's history.

NetGalley, Leah Zinn

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am a huge fan of Amy McElroy’s first book on Tudor education and so I was very excited to receive an ARC of her second book - ‘Women’s Lives in the Tudor Era’ - and I was not disappointed. The author takes us on a fascinating and in depth journey through the lives of ordinary women during the Tudor period. Beginning with their childhood Amy McElroy explores the options and potential future that awaited baby girls. She offers us such details as the fact that even the way their hair could be worn was prescribed by society and quotes primary sources such as Roger Ascham’s ‘English Work’s’ to show us the sort of advice parents would have been expected to follow in respect to their female children. The author then moves through women’s lives looking at the day to day challenges an adolescent Tudor woman faced - such as how to make quince marmalade fit for presenting to the upper classes - and on to the more serious challenges they faced when taking a husband. I loved the detail which was given regarding the lives of women once they were married. Too often it seems that women are forgotten historically once they are safely married off, but here the author offers us a tantalizing insight into the lives they could and did lead. For example Lady Anne Lestrange’s exemplary bookkeeping and the relationship she had with her daughter in law Ellen as they sought to live harmoniously together painted for me a vivid picture which (I’m sure!) many can relate to today.
I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Wills, and the insight they offer us into the lives of Tudor women such as Margaret Browne, who left an incredibly detailed Will, and touchingly took pains to ensure that her daughter inherited and was protected as well as her sons. Proof perhaps that she was all too aware of the challenges her daughter faced as a Tudor woman.
Aristocratic women are mentioned throughout this book but this primarily is a commentary and analysis of the lives of more ‘ordinary’ Tudor women. Amy McElroy’s constant use of primary sources is detailed, accurate and convincing, her arguments are well grounded in the primary material and offer the reader an incredibly detailed insight.
This book is an entertaining, fascinating and brilliant read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

NetGalley, Rebecca B

About Amy McElroy

Amy was born and bred in Liverpool before moving to the Midlands to study Criminal Justice eventually becoming a civil servant. She has long been interested in history, reading as much and as often as she could. Her writing journey began with her blog, sharing thoughts on books she had read, before developing to writing reviews for Aspects of History magazine and culminating in her own book.

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