Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Member

Caroline Dunn, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Thomas Kuehn

Committee Member

Stephanie Barczewski


Widows who lived in fifteenth-century England present an interesting case study

for their exercises of agency through personal piety because they are underrepresented in

the historiographical discussion on this topic. This thesis focuses largely on widowed

laywomen and the different ways in which they could access agency through personal

piety and the legal system. The examination of their choices in donations, bequests, and

other pious actions reveals widows' ability to express themselves. The chief focus of this

thesis are the ways in which widows' actions of personal piety provided them with access

points to agency, authority, and power. While there has been much study on women's

piety and women's agency, this study seeks to fill historiographical gaps by combining

these aspects of medieval Englishwomen's lives as they experienced them in the fifteenth