SURF

Megan Stanton

Mary Rich, Countess of Warwick: A Case Study of Gender Roles in Seventeenth Century England

This summer I will be studying the life of Mary Rich, Countess of Warwick (1624-1678) as a case study for understanding the lives of aristocratic women in Early Modern England. Mary Rich is important and intriguing because aspects of her personality and lifestyle simultaneously conformed to and challenged the gender roles in her society. Both in the Countesss semi-independent attitude toward her marriage prospects and in her important role in community affairs in her local community in Essex, she defied traditional gender roles. However, with her conversion to a Puritan lifestyle, she became a model of piety widely regarded throughout her community and throughout England as an ideal woman. These two components of her lifestyle and personality seem somewhat contradictory, and through the use of her extensive manuscripts available on microfilms from the British Library, I will study how Mary Rich herself dealt with these issues and her place in society. Remarkably, the scholarship about Mary Rich is limited, and therefore, it is my opinion that this project will significantly contribute to the wider historiography of the lives of aristocratic women in Early Modern Britain.

Message to Sponsor

I am excited to have the opportunity to spend my summer reading the microfilmed manuscripts of Mary Rich because the difficulty of the manuscripts would make it almost impossible to read them during the mere semester allotted to a Senior Thesis project in history. Further, this is my first chance to do extensive research with significant primary materials (one thousand pages of manuscripts!), which will make it challenging, and Im sure, quite the learning experience. Spending the summer reading Mary Richs papers will also allow me to develop a greater understanding for the nature of the academic lifestyle, which is invaluable in my decision making process regarding post-graduation plans.
  • Major: History
  • Mentor: Ethan Shagan, History