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.
|Ivetta||1304-6||Prioress||–||plaintiff||prioress of Handale|
|Alice le Bakester||1312-3||Baker||60||Witness|
|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|
|Emma Warner||1367||Warrener*||–||see note||Plaintiff = “John, son of Emma Warner”|
|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|
* denotes occupation determined by surname
Total N: 15
Mean age: 53.6
Median age: 45