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During the sixteenth century, western European women were rarely able to inherit property, money, or titles. Even for noble women privileged with education, monarchies favored male heirs, and women rarely ruled as regents. It was even more rare for a woman to inherit from another woman. Such restrictions required women to work within rigid gender roles and develop more unconventional modes of inheritance. Rather than passing on material goods or a title, women could pass on certain social inheritances, such as personality traits or religious and educational teachings to their daughters. In order to examine these social inheritances, I have turned to the writings of royal women during the sixteenth century to determine what these social inheritances were and how they were passed from generation to generation. The writing of letters amongst royal women convey that education and religion were important social inheritances that women could transmit through letter writing. Translations and memoirs are two other genres of interest that could connect women across time and geographic region to either transfer or reveal social inheritances. Sixteenth century western Europe, despite aforementioned restrictions, was a place where many women rose to power and were often related through blood relation or marriage. By examining the relationships between these women through the lens of social inheritance, this project seeks to place them in direct conversation with one another in a way the history books have often failed to do.
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Reid, Mary Rebecca, "Unexpected Modes of Gendered Inheritance: How Royal Women Bequeathed Knowledge and Power in Sixteenth Century Europe through Letters, Translations, and Memoirs" (2021). Senior Projects Spring 2021. 101.
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