More Women Workers in York: Looking at the Ebor Cause Papers

I have begun to explore additional research avenues for examining the lives and economic activities of women living in medieval York. One potential resource is the Ebor Cause Papers: these are records of individual cases heard in the ecclesiastical courts at York between 1300 and 1858. These cases represent a cross-section of medieval legal proceedings and can provide some insight into the daily lives of common people. The Cause Papers have been digitized, making them readily accessible to the casual researcher; I chose to use only the most basic records for this preliminary study. Under basic access, one can see the name, role (plaintiff, witness, etc.), and employment of participants in each case, as well as some other notes and details.

The cause papers are searchable; I cast a wide net, searching for any records containing female participants in any role between 1300 and 1377. I then read through the resulting records and recorded the same information that I had recorded with the Register of Freemen, that is, names and occupations of women, along with any relevant notes. For these data, I only recorded female names in cases where a woman had an occupational byname or a recorded occupation as otherwise I was unable to find direct evidence that other women in the Cause Papers were engaged in work for pay. I also did not record the names or occupations of men listed in the Cause Papers. This dataset is considerably smaller than that obtained from the Register of Freemen and does not lend itself to statistical analyses, as the evidence is inherently anecdotal. I found a total of fifteen records of women fitting my criteria, as seen in the table that follows.

Table: Women with occupational bynames or specified occupations appearing in the Ebor Cause Papers (York, England) between 1300 and 1377.


Name Year Occupation Age Role Notes
Ivetta 1304-6 Prioress plaintiff prioress of Handale
Alice le Bakester 1312-3 Baker 60 Witness
Matilda Spicer 1336-7 Spicer* 50 Witness
Agnes Waller 1355-8 Wall-builder* Defendant
Juliane Webster 1355-8 Weaver* 20 Witness Wife of Richard Byard
Isabel 1363 Servant Defendant Servant of Thomas Queldale
Anabel Pyndar 1365-6 Pounder* (of animals) Witness
Emmota Norice 1365-6 Nurse* Witness
Emma Warner 1367 Warrener* see note Plaintiff = “John, son of Emma Warner”
Agnes Payge 1367-8 Page* Witness
Margaret Dyssere 1367-70 Dish-maker or seller* 70 Witness Husband listed separately as Robert Dysser
Margaret le Wyredragher 1370-1 Wire drawer* Defendant Widow, executrix of contested will
Margery 1372 Servant Plaintiff Servant of William Burton, Tanner
Joan Cobbell 1372-3 Cobbler* 28 Witness
Margery Webbester 1372-3 Weaver* 40 Witness


* denotes occupation determined by surname


Total N: 15

Mean age: 53.6

Median age: 45


Author: eulalia

I'm a foodie, medievalist, crafter, and gardener living in beautiful Portland, Oregon.

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