“They are named Flowers because Fruit follows ”: The Foundation of Singlewomen’s Medical Distinctiveness in the Seventeenth Century
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While historians’ discussions of singlewomen in the early modern period have outlined their legal and social distinctiveness, this thesis draws upon medical literature to demonstrate that contemporaries believed singlewomen were medically and physiologically dissimilar from married women. Medical writers argued that singlewomen were perceived as being less healthy due to their lesser innate heat. Singlewomen also lacked the microcosmic social roles of wives and mothers, and because they were thought to be sexually abstinent, these women, along with their humours and fluxes, were deemed unprofitable. In situating an analysis of singlewomen’s health within the early modern discourses of microcosms and profits, this thesis outlines many social and cultural forces that interacted to influence singlewomen’s identities.