The vowess—a woman, usually a widow, who had taken a vow of chastity in an episcopal ceremony without necessarily retreating to a convent—remains an obscure figure, in spite of the popularity of this vocation amongst gentry and merchant-class widows in the later Middle ages. Although vowed women have received some scholarly attention, particularly since the 1990s, a full-length prosopographical study is still lacking. This is at least partly due to significant methodological challenges around how one identifies these women, what criteria might be applied to confirm a potential vowess, and whether or not they are to be considered a homogenous group, especially in light of the striking variety amongst vowed women’s circumstances and lifestyles. This article explores some of the challenges in undertaking such a prosopographical study, while suggesting possible solutions or mitigations, and considers the broader implications of these methodological issues for our understanding of veiled widowhood.
Wood, Laura M.
"In Search of the Mantle and Ring: Prosopographical Study of the Vowess in Late Medieval England,"
Medieval People: Vol. 34:
1, Article 7.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/medpros/vol34/iss1/7