Megan Stanton Humanities and Social Science
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.