Property inventories as a source to studying the situation of women in the small towns of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The article is based on property inventories from the archives of the following towns: Bnin, Bork, Dolsko, Gostyn, Kleczew, Pobiedziska, Poniec, Radziejów, Sulmierzyce and Wolsztyn (Great Poland) and Wojnicz (Little Poland). The analysis concerned 52 inventories of property belonging to burgher women (including 9 inventories of property owned jointly by married couples). The source basis includes also: two trousseau inventories, one dowry inventory, three 'gerada', two noblewomen inventories and one inventory of items received as pay for service. The inventories analysed focus on the property itself and do not contain much information about the owners, apart from the name, the marital status and sometimes the husband's surname. They are a source of data on women's work, financial situation, and participation in the economic development of the town. Burgher women often ran shops, licensed inns or bakeries. Many burgher women (especially widows) dealt in pawnbroking or ground lease. Poorer ones became servants. The inventories list both movable and immovable belongings, allowing us to reconstruct the material situation of their owners and to conclude a women often had her own property, which usually consisted of the dowry and some possessions inherited from her parents or a late husband. Items listed in the inventories can be divided into the following categories: bedclothes, linen, textiles and yarn, garments, tableware and kitchenware, cash, foodstuffs, livestock, tools, jewellery and immovable property. Although the inventories in question do not give us a full and objective picture of the situation of a woman dwelling in a small town of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, they undoubtedly show her in the perspective of her material position. The picture will obviously have to be broadened and developed by studying varied kinds of source materials.
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