‘Widows’ Opportunities to continue Craft Trade in Northern Baltic Cities during the 15th and 16th Centuries

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  199 W IDOWS ’   O PPORTUNITIES TO C ONTINUE C RAFT T RADE IN  N ORTHERN B ALTIC C ITIES DURING THE 15 TH  AND 16 TH   C ENTURIES   Maija Ojala 1. Introduction The household was the cornerstone of society in cities of the Northern Baltic Sea area during the late Middle Ages 1 . It formed the basic unit for craft  production in which the work contributions of both husband and wife were needed for sustenance. 2  This ideal balance was disturbed when the husband died. For the community this created a problematic situation: should the ideal norm be restored by encouraging the widow to remarry, or should the community accept a different form of enterprise led by a single adult? The craft organizations of the cities took a stance on this matter in their ordinances by regulating the ways in which widows could continue in their trade. This article studies the marital and survival strategies of widows in four late medieval cities, namely Lübeck, Riga, Tallinn and Stockholm, thus  provides for the first time an extensive compariso n of craft widows’ status in 1. The period covered by this study, 1400- 1600, can be described as ‘late medieval’, ‘early modern’, or both, dep ending on how one chooses to define these terms. To simplify matters, I will use the term ‘late medieval’ to categorize the entire period under investigation. 2. M. Keniston McIntosh, Working Women in English Society 1300-1600  (Cambridge: 2005), 4.  Maija Ojala 200 the cities bordering the Baltic Sea. 3  I argue that the regulations in the craft ordinances relating to widows’ status gave them various possibilities to carry on with their trade, and that therefore the regulations were not merely restrictions against female labour, as is often suggested in the literature, but must be seen as opportunities. I will first use quantitative methods to pinpoint how important the definition of the widows’ rights and obligations within the crafts was. Thereafter I will analyze in detail the various possibilities open to craft widows, in order to get a clearer picture of the position they occupied within the craft after their husbands died. In addition, I will discuss the relationship between norm and practice  –   that is, whether the craft regulations were actually followed in everyday life. While inheritance, dower and such external factors as economic status also affected widows’ ability to continue their trade, here the focus is on the regulations found in the craft ordinances. 4   2. Sources and terminology Artisans, craftsfolk, were organized in late medieval cities in such a way that usually those who practised one particular trade, such as shoemakers, formed one ‘craft’. Each craft had its own rules (Middle Low German  schra ), which in research are usually called craft ordinances. 5  Each craft ordinance included dozens of different articles. The craft ordinances regulated above all the actual work of the artisan, but they also touched upon other aspects of life such as craft festivities and religious participation. They were intended to guarantee the monopoly of the trade to the craft members, to ensure equal privileges and obligations for the members and to assure the quality of the goods produced. Beca use the city council ‘lent’ the ordinance to the craft and confirmed or amended it periodically, craft ordinances served as a way for city governments to exercise control over craft production. 6   3. For extensive comparison in German-speaking areas, see the pioneer work of P.-P. Krebs,  Die Stellung der Handwerkerswitwe in der Zunft vom Spätmittelalter bis zum 18. Jahrhundert   (Diss., Universität Regensburg: 1974). 4. For inheritance and women’s legal statu s in general see, for example, B. Hanawalt, The Wealth of Wives: Women, Law and Economy in Late Medieval London  (Oxford: 2007); M.C. Howell, The Marriage Exchange  (Chicago: 1998); M. Korpiola,  Between  Betrothal and Bedding: Marriage Formation in Sweden 1200-1600  (Leiden, Boston: 2009). 5. In this article the guild rules are called guild  statutes , as distinct from craft ordinances . However, in research the term ‘statutes’ can refer both to guild and craft rules. 6. Tallinna Linnaarhiiv / Tallinn City Archives (hereafter TLA), coll. 190, inv. 2, no. 555, 1r ( Schmiede   1459): ‘Do vorleneden uns unse heren Borgemeister und Radtmanne to Reuell eyne schraa […]’. In this article the TLA documents are numbered in  Widows’ Opportunities to continue C raft Trade 201 It is important to clarify the nomenclature here, because in research the far more familiar term ‘guild’ is often used synonymously with ‘craft’ to refer to any merchants’ or artisans’ organization with specific economic, political, social and religious functions. As if this were not confusing enough, other terms s uch as ‘confraternity’ or ‘brotherhood’ can be used to designate different urban organizations. In this article the following tripartite classification is used: 1) The term ‘guild’ refers primarily to merchants’ organizations, which often had a leading economic and political position in cities. The term additionally was used in Tallinn and Riga for two composite artisan guilds, St Canute’s Guild and St Olaf’s Guild, which united various smaller crafts. 2) The term ‘craft’ refers to an organization of artisa ns who  practised the same trade and were united to ensure their privileges in a specific field of craft production. 3) Finally, the term ‘devotional guild’ is used for the religious organizations which were dedicated to their patron saint(s), their main function being religious participation and charitable work. 7  Generally guild statutes and the statutes of devotional guilds make no reference to women’s rights to carry on with their trade after becoming widows. This underlines the differences between the various guilds and craft organizations, whose ordinances regulated above all daily work. Thus it validates the explicit distinction of the organization types. Furthermore, in devotional guilds men and women from different estates could be members, whereas in crafts and in merchants’ and artisans’ guilds the membership base was far narrower. 8  This article focuses on crafts because it was precisely these organizations that defined the opportunities for a widow to carry on her professional activity after her husband had died. A wide- ranging study of widows’ rights in the Baltic Sea area is possible because of the quantity of surviving craft ordinances. Altogether 152 ordinances survive from c. 1400-1600, the period chosen for this study: 9  19 from Stockholm (1450-1604), 10  34 from Tallinn accordance with A. Margus,  Katalog des Stadarchivs Tallinn ,  Archiv der St.  Kanutigilde  (Tallinna: 1938). 7. In literature these organizations are mainly called ‘brotherhoods’ or ‘confraternities’. However, drawing on the terms used in the srcinal source material (  gild  ,  gille ) they are referred to here as ‘devotional guilds’. 8. A. Mänd, Urban Carnival: Festive Culture in the Hanseatic Cities of Eastern Baltic, 1350-1550  (Turnhout: 2005), 29-31, 39-40; C. Anz, Gilden im mittelalterlichen Skandinavien  (Göttingen: 1998), passim; A. Margus,  Katalog  , Einleitung. See also M. Escher-Aspner (ed.),  Mittelalterliche Bruderschaften in europäischen Städten/  Medieval Confraternities in European Towns  (Frankfurt a.M., New York: 2009). 9. Some craft ordinances have been preserved from before this period, and their number explode after 1600.  Maija Ojala 202 (1394-1600), 11  43 from Riga (1375-1619) 12  and 56 from Lübeck (1400-1599). 13  The majority of craftsfolk were members of the middle class, with citizen rights, but some belonged to the lower class. In Livonian cities craftsfolk were mainly German-speaking people, whereas in Stockholm they were Swedes and Germans. Whether the widows’ rights applied to masters’ widows only is unclear, but often this seems to have been the case. The craft ordinances are normative source material, which has to be taken into account.  Nevertheless, they offer an insight to past everyday life in an urban milieu. 3. Widows’ rights in the craft ordinances   Quantitative analysis makes evident that the crafts regarded it important to define the position of a widow within their organization. In late medieval towns widowhood and remarriages were common, 14  which partly explains the quantity of articles related to widows’ rights in the ordinances. The following table shows that at least 30 percent of the craft ordinances in each city had an article related to widows’ rights, rising to 44 percent in Tallinn. These results fit well with the common perception that the nuclear family/household was the cornerstone of late medieval urban society. In the craft milieu, they indicate that the household was also the basic unit for craft  production, and that both spouses worked in the family workshop to earn the family’s living. 15  After the death of the business partner the question was whether the community should try to get bac k to the ‘normal’ and ‘ideal’ state of the nuclear family and encourage the surviving spouse to remarry, or should instead accept a different form of enterprise, a craft workshop led by a single 10. Stockholm craft ordinances are edited in Skrå-ordningar  , ed. G. E. Klemming (Stockholm: 1856) and in Småstycken på forn svenska , ed. G. E. Klemming (Stockholm: 1868-1881). 11. Tallinn craft ordinances are preserved in, TLA, in coll. 190 Archiv der St Kanutigilde, inv. 2 Handwerksämter and in coll. 230 Der Revaler Magistrat, inv. 1. Some craft ordinances are edited in  Beiträge zur Kunde Est-, Liv- und Kurlands , ed. Estländische Literärische Gesellschaft. Some craft ordinances can be found edited in  Liv-, Est- und  Kurländisches Urkundenbuch  (hereafter LECUB). 12. Riga craft ordinances are edited in Schragen der Gilder und Ämter der Stadt Riga bis 1621 , ed. W. Stieda and C. Mettig (Riga: 1896). 13. Lübeck craft ordinances are edited in  Die älteren lübeckischen Zunftrollen , ed.   C. Wehrmann, (Lübeck: 1872). 14. Lager-Kromnow,  Att vara stockholmare på 1560-talet   (Stockholm: 1992), 85; Hanawalt, The Wealth of Wives , 96; C. Fairchilds, Women in Early Modern Europe 1500-1700  (Harlow, New York: 2007), 105. 15. Fairchilds, Women , 149; Hanawalt, The Wealth of Wives , 70, 180.  Widows’ Opportunities to continue C raft Trade 203 adult instead of a married couple. 16  Because the relevant articles in the craft ordinances have been seen from the point of view of the craft community, led  by male masters, the articles related to widows’ status have hitherto been interpreted by scholars as strengthening a patriarchal system and restricting female labour. 17  Nevertheless, as I argue, looking at the regulations in the craft ordinances from the point of view of the widows themselves leads to another interpretation, one which paints a brighter picture of their situation. City Number of extant ordinances Ordinances with widows’ rights article Percentage of ordinances with widows’ rights article Lübeck 56 17 30 % Riga 43 17 40 % Tallinn 34 15 44 % Stockholm 19 6 32 % Table 1. Number of surviving ordinances c. 1400-1600 and share of widows’ right s articles in numbers and percentage (  Notes: In this table a widows’ right s article in an ordinance has been counted as one unit even though one such article might have several paragraphs and give a widow multiple options. Sources: See footnotes 10-13) The status of widows raised many questions. 18  Should the widow have the same rights and obligations as a craft member as male masters did? For example, were widows to be allowed to attend the craft assemblies? In most 16. Family ideal, the male as head of the household and subordinate status of wives, was  promoted by moralists and the clergy. See for example L. Roper, The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg   (Oxford: 1989), 17, 22, 31; R. M. Toivo, Witchcraft and Gender in early Modern Society  (Aldershot: 2008), 10; S. Katajala-Peltomaa and R. M. Toivo,  Noitavaimo ja neitsytäiti: Naisten arki kesiajalta uudelle ajalle  (Keuruu: 2009), 34-37; Hanawalt, The Wealth of Wives , 105. 17. M. S. Hartmann, The Household and the Making of History  (Cambridge: 2004), 169; J. M. Bennett,  Ale, Beer and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600  (Oxford: 1996); M. E. Wiesner, Working Women in Renaissance Germany  (New Brunswick, N.J.: 1986), 32-34. Cf. also Hanawalt, The Wealth of Wives , 180-83. 18. Margaret Pelling has highlighted the differences between female and male widowhood, arguing that the status of widower did not pose any challenge to society ’ s norms and customs because it did not alter a man ’ s civic, legal or occupational status. See M. Pelling, ‘ Finding Widowers: Men without Women in English Towns before 1700 ’ , in S. Cavallo and L. Warner Harlow (eds.), Widowhood in Medieval and Early Modern  Europe  (New York: 1999), 37-54, at 42. See also Fairchilds, Women , 107.
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