Kinship Networks, Power, and Agency in Upper Austrian Noblewomen of the Seventeenth Century
Seitzmeir, Michelle Esme
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CitationSeitzmeir, Michelle Esme. 2019. Kinship Networks, Power, and Agency in Upper Austrian Noblewomen of the Seventeenth Century. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThis thesis looks at elite women in seventeenth century Upper Austria to examine how kinship networks and institutions affected their agency and opportunities during the tumultuous events surrounding the Counter Reformation. Using three short biographies of noblewomen within the same social network, this thesis argues that the realities of choice, opportunities, and family obligations were complex and nuanced. Kinship networks served both as limiting agents upon women as well as a means for allowing them to play an active role in determining the trajectory or outcome of their lives. Rather than merely being constrained by the legal and social norms of the time, some elite women were able to leverage their social and family connections to exercise broad agency. The more connected a woman was to her family and kinship networks, the more freedom she had to act independently, and it was the absence of such connections which limited them the most. Women who lacked the requisite kinship networks could be denied their social or legal rights unless they could engage the power of a larger authority, such as the Catholic Church, to act on their behalf. The external pressures brought on by the Counter Reformation and rebellions of the period made the use of kinship networks as a means of leveraging power particularly relevant to elite women. Yet the use of these tools was not unique to that period, but rather part of an existing strategy used by noble women to exercise agency.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42006716