RHS Lecture – Dr Alex Shepard ‘Minding Their Own Business: Crediting Married Women in the Early Modern Economy’.

21 October 2014

Dr Alex Shepard is Reader in Early Modern History and Director of the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Glasgow.  Here she reflects on a rare glimpse of a long term friendship between two London women in the early-eighteenth century.  Elizabeth Carter and Elizabeth Hatchett were friends and partners in a pawn-broking business in London in the early eighteenth century.  We know about them because of a property dispute over Elizabeth Hatchett’s claims to Elizabeth Carter’s goods after she died ‘of a fever’ in 1722.

Taking a micro-historical approach, this lecture explores the business activities of Elizabeth Carter, a woman who practised as a midwife and operated as a pawnbroker in London in the early decades of the eighteenth century first while a wife and subsequently as a widow.  Based on a protracted inheritance dispute through which her extensive dealings come to light, the discussion assesses women’s lending activities in a burgeoning metropolitan economy; the networks through which women lenders operated; and the extent to which they could side-step the legal conventions of ‘coverture’ which restricted married women’s ownership of moveable property.  It will be argued that the money-lending and asset management activities of women like Elizabeth Carter were an important part of married women’s work that did not simply consolidate neighbourhood ties but also fuelled early modern economic development.

This lecture was an RHS event held at Heritage Quay, Central Services Building, University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield. HD1 3DH