Author Topic: Spinster as term for widow?  (Read 402 times)

Offline Davedrave

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Spinster as term for widow?
« on: Tuesday 04 December 18 18:50 GMT (UK) »
I have found that a woman, Mary Beet, nee Lea, of Shenton, who I’m sure was a widow of many year’s standing, was called “spinster” in her will. This seems very odd. However, the will dates from 1835, the year of her death. She married in 1764, and seems already to have been widowed either before, or very soon after, the birth of a son, her only child, who died in 1765.

She died “in the 100th year of her age” and was buried (presumably) beside her younger brother (they share a headstone) who had died in 1820.

So, had she simply forgotten she had ever been married and borne a child, or was the term “spinster” used for a woman who had been a widow for 70 years. Or have I made a dreadful mistake in my FH research? :o

Dave :)

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Online Mckha489

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Re: Spinster as term for widow?
« Reply #1 on: Tuesday 04 December 18 19:26 GMT (UK) »
I can’t help but think that the reverse would normally be more likely.

That is, a woman of that age would be known as Mrs or “the widow” even if she had never been married. 

However, presuming she didn’t write the will herself, if it was being written by someone much younger who didn’t know anything about her, or had known her for 40 years or so but never heard mention of a husband or child, then they might have just assumed the spinster bit and so just wrote the preamble and no one else picked it up. That’s the trouble when you live to 100, everyone who knew you has died first.
currently concentrating on NUTCHER & MARSHALL families, Hampshire.
and family of Thomas ANDERSON a Tailor of Perth, Scotland

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Online familydar

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Re: Spinster as term for widow?
« Reply #2 on: Tuesday 04 December 18 19:30 GMT (UK) »
Are you sure that the Mary Lea who married in her late twenties wasn't someone else?
ALLEN
BARR, BARRATT, BERRY, BRADLEY,BRAMLEY,BRISTOW,BROWN,BUGBIRD,BUTLER
CAIN,CARR,CHAPMAN,CHARLES,CH*LTON,CHESTER,COCKETT
COLLASON,COLLYER,CORKERY
DARLING, DENYER,DICKERSON,DOLLING,DURBAN
FARMER,FURNELL
GIBSON,GILES,GROOMBRIDGE
HALL,HAMBIDGE,HARMES,HART,HICKS,HILL,HOLLOWAY
JACKSON
K*AT*S
LANCASTER,LINTON
MCDONALD,MCFADEN,MEARS,MILLARD
NICOLAS,NOAK,NORTH
PARFIT,PORTER
RIPPINGALE,ROBINS
SEARLE,SPENCER,STEDHAM
TYLER,TILLY,TUCKWELL
WADE,WAGER,WALKER,WATSON,WEBB,WITHRINGTON,WOOD

Offline majm

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Re: Spinster as term for widow?
« Reply #3 on: Tuesday 04 December 18 20:27 GMT (UK) »
A spinster by definition would not have given birth to any children born within a marriage .... so how does her will describe any heirs .  ... ADD ... and is she noted as 'sister' on the headstone...

JM
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Offline Davedrave

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Re: Spinster as term for widow?
« Reply #4 on: Tuesday 04 December 18 20:35 GMT (UK) »
Thanks for the replies. Mary Beet is actually pretty well-documented so I’m confident that she did marry and the suggestion that someone else drafted the will does look very plausible. Maybe her input was confined to being asked who was to receive a legacy. Thinking about it, apart from Mary, the  oldest family member in the village at the time of her will was the son of the cousin of Mary and Richard, and he was wasn’t born until some three years after Mary’s marriage and the death of her husband.

Now all I need to do is find the burial of her husband, John Beet, of which I can find no trace ???

Offline Davedrave

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Re: Spinster as term for widow?
« Reply #5 on: Tuesday 04 December 18 20:54 GMT (UK) »
A spinster by definition would not have given birth to any children born within a marriage .... so how does her will describe any heirs .  ... ADD ... and is she noted as 'sister' on the headstone...

JM

I can’t remember the exact wording on the headstone, maybe just “also Mary Beet” (her details are added: he had died in 1820, 15 years earlier) but Richard’s will certainly refers to “my sister Mary Beet”, who was one of the main beneficiaries. He left generous legacies to nephews and nieces and their children, and Mary’s will leaves legacies to the same relatives minus one who had died in 1826. There was the burial of a “John Beet” in 1766 in this churchyard, who I assume to have been her infant son. She wasn’t married in Shenton but in Birstall, Leics, where her son was baptised. I assume she returned to Shenton with her son after her bereavement, and that the boy died soon after.

Offline GR2

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Re: Spinster as term for widow?
« Reply #6 on: Tuesday 04 December 18 22:08 GMT (UK) »
Is it possible that she was actually a spinster in the sense of a woman earning an income by spinning? I have come across that usage still in the 1840s.

Entering "spinster" in the occupation box on FreeCEN for Aberdeenshire in 1851 comes up with 107 spinsters. 19 were widows, 5 were married, 83 were unmarried. Some combined spinning with the knitting of stockings.

Offline barryd

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Re: Spinster as term for widow?
« Reply #7 on: Wednesday 05 December 18 04:41 GMT (UK) »
A definition on Google


An unmarried woman, typically an older woman beyond the usual age for marriage

Offline Davedrave

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Re: Spinster as term for widow?
« Reply #8 on: Wednesday 05 December 18 09:16 GMT (UK) »
I think it very unlikely that she was a woman who used a spinning wheel in an occupational capacity and think the explanation is very likely as suggested by an earlier answerer: that she had always lived in the same way as a spinster might, in the household of her batchelor brother during the time those here knew her, and her marriage; loss of husband; child’s birth and death; all belonged in an era before the birth of those who knew her in 1835 and were unknown to them.