Rola wdowy w rodzinie i społeczeństwie staropolskim na podstawie polskich drukowanych oracji pogrzebowych XVII wieku

Urszula Kicińska


Funeral sermons present an interesting source of researches into the mentality of the Old Polish society, in which defined patterns, models and personal stereotypes are formed. Th is source presents an image of a woman in an interesting way, which in public awareness of those times rested on two principal pillars, defi ning the role and function of a woman in the community—marriage and monastery. The death of one of the spouses was a natural dissolution of the marriage. Especially in case of women a status of a widow should be prolonged or stay till the end of their life, because only after a loss of a husband the woman could enjoy her freedom, than when she was an unmarried or a married woman. It is important to emphasize that widowhood was the only position in which women could be promoted to the role of the head of family. The widow inherited estate from her husband,
and this factor decided about her net assets position and her independence in the community. Moreover, she had a right to decide about her own marriage settlement; she took care over children, who were born during the marriage and she could choose a next husband. Many noblewomen did not want to get married once again. For that reason they chose solitude. It was better for the widow to be alone because then she
could focus on the charity and the church—what was well perceived by the society. Preachers shared the same belief, they considered that women should be religious, modest, quiet, exemplary.
On the basis of funeral sermons we can conclude that in the system of secular female patterns—a widow anticipated the greatest respect and she was compared to women from the Old Testament. She was perceived as a brave and devout person, generous founder of churches, monasteries, hospitals and burses. Th ese attributes were associated with holiness and resignation from the world.

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