Hucksters, hags, and bawds: Gendering place in early modern London

Christi Spain-Savage, Fordham University


My dissertation, "Hucksters, Hags, and Bawds: Gendering Place in Early Modern London," examines depictions of working-class women in specific London neighborhoods in early modern literature. The gendered place narratives I uncover are informed by the work of feminist and queer geographers who comprehend place as both a purveyor and a product of gender relations. I argue that such narratives in diverse literary texts, including plays by William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, poems, broadside ballads, prose works, and pamphlets, demonstrate that women laborers were associated with disreputable London areas and then scapegoated as the reason for the neighborhoods' decline. My focus on particular London sites such as Billingsgate, Bankside, Smithfield, and Brentford illuminates how gendered place narratives in literature react to, enable, exploit, and sometimes contest contemporary notions of gender and location. The narratives analyzed in my first three chapters, for example, establish the widespread, pervasive genderings of place that seeped into the popular imagination of Londoners and endured for decades; my final chapter, however, demonstrates the limitations of literature in the gendering of place since these portrayals were resurrected in subsequent literary works but did not persist in the vernacular. Recent criticism has taught us much about the everyday lives of women workers within London's complex labor economy. Extending this work, "Hucksters, Hags, and Bawds" grounds the practices of early modern women in space and time, offering a close examination of the specific and meaningful contingencies of their working lives. My study demonstrates that gendered place narratives affected how early modern culture understood and fashioned both place and gendered practices.^

Subject Area

History, European|Women's Studies|Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Spain-Savage, Christi, "Hucksters, hags, and bawds: Gendering place in early modern London" (2014). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3630184.