September 2014: Richelle Munkhoff publishes article, “Poor Women and Parish Public Health in Sixteenth-Century London,” in Renaissance Studies 28.4 (2014): 579-596. This appears in a special issue on Women and Healthcare in Early Modern Europe, edited by Sharon Strocchia.
From Wiley online library: While there is much excellent scholarship on the topics of poor relief and plague management in England, less attention has been paid to how they function together, especially given that they were housed in the same administrative unit of the parish. This article focuses on one key area of overlap: the medical labour performed by poor women as nurses or ‘keepers’ for their neighbours and as ‘searchers’ for epidemiological purposes in the period 1560–1600. Examining primarily parish records, such as churchwardens’ account books and vestry minutes, I make a three-fold argument: first, women’s labour became systematized as part of charitable parish care, as keeping duties rose to the level of visible economic exchange; second, the labour of keeping provided the foundation for the development of women’s roles as plague searchers; and third, together those roles indicate a deliberate structure implemented in London to confront issues of public health (poverty, vagrancy, epidemics) that is worth considering in its own right.