History professor explores hidden power of women

Grace Coolidge, associate professor of history, has always been interested in exploring the gap between what should be happening and what is actually happening, particularly how that idea relates to women in early modern Spain.

Coolidge’s book, “Guardianship, Gender, and the Nobility in Early Modern Spain” (Ashgate Publishing, 2010), explores the role Spanish noblewomen played in the patriarchal society when they were called upon by their husbands to be the primary guardians of their children and property.

Coolidge said that at some point many noble families were headed by women who were then required to play an important role in the decision making processes involving property and wealth, political power, estate settlements and preservation of family.

The book is part of Coolidge’s dissertation that she finished in 2001, and then reworked on her semester-long sabbatical in 2008 before submitting it to publishers.

Coolidge said she has always had an invested interest in the unexpected roles of women in history. “Even early on in my schooling people would talk about history as if there were no women involved,” she said. “I grew up being influenced by strong women, so I knew that couldn’t be true.”

Coolidge is currently working on a second book regarding mothers of illegitimate children in early modern Spain. “The power that is given to women is often hidden throughout history but many women did have real power,” she said.


Page last modified March 16, 2012