Stuard, Susan Mosher. 1999. “Single by Law and Custom” in Bennett, Judith M. & Amy M. Froide eds. Singlewomen in the European Past 1250-1800. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. ISBN 0-8122-1668-7
While, no doubt, many lesbians in history made their peace with the need to accommodate marriage and family life, when designing a character who has the freedom to refuse marriage to a man, it helps to know what social and economic options would have been possible (or even normal) within your setting. There have been several excellent collections of papers (and even more monographs) on the topic of singlewomen, but I believe this was the first significant one to appear.
Stuard, Susan Mosher. “Single by Law and Custom”
In order to get a little ahead of myself, I busily scribbled notes on the next five articles from Singlewomen, however I was a bit too clever and was taking notes using my Livescribe pen and app, which is supposed to automatically transcribe my handwritten notes into e-text. But I got bogged down with trying to transfer the files from my iPhone (which syncs with the pen) to my iPad (which is one model to old to sync directly, but is better for doing the recognition and editing). So to get my entry posted before midnight, I'm skipping ahead a couple articles to cover two very short entries. They're short because the content is mostly irrelevant to my purposes, but I decided to include the entire contents of the collection anyway given that most of the articles have at least some relevant content.
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Included for completeness’ sake as the collection in general is relevant. However as this article concerns itself with women who are “single” due to slavery, it provides essentially no useful information relevant to economic and social independence.
The article looks at enslaved women as an “unmarried” class. Some did marry, but in general their legal status made them undesirable as wives. There was some persistence of slavery from classical times, particularly in the Mediterranean region, which increased in the late 13th century as gains by the propertied classes created a need/desire for additional household servants. These were overwhelmingly women (90%) and young, typically from the Crimea and Balken areas up to the 15th century. After that, increasingly from Africa (both northern and sub-Saharan). After 1500 slavery expanded greatly into the New World.