restricted access Words to the Wise: Reappropriating the Widow in Early Modern Didactic Literature

Widows figured prominently in the prescriptive literature of early modern Europe. Although many widows were left destitute and defenceless, a significant number attained independence and even a certain measure of authority. France, though strongly patriarchal, saw widows rise to positions of considerable power. Manuals of comportment written by men reveal efforts to contain the early modern widow, to limit her influence on her society. However, women who penned such manuals, widows advising widows, borrowed the masculine tradition of moral didactic literature in order to teach their readers to negotiate and succeed in early modern French society.