chapter  5
30 Pages

The Calculus of Remarriage

Not long after her husband’s burial had been concluded, the widow faced a

pressing question-whether to remarry or remain single.1 Widows’ families and

neighbors often urged them to remarry so they could count on a man’s support and

the sense of security a husband could provide. But if a widow decided to take

another husband, she then faced a number of social pressures over her choice of

partner. As Florent Dancourt’s comedy “Le Chevalier à la Mode” highlighted, a

widow’s family often had property interests and social status at stake at remarriage

which they pushed the widow to strengthen in her choice of a spouse. In addition

to family concerns, a widow had her own inclinations to account for: financial

assistance, the need for another parent for her children, the requirement for help

with a business, grief, or loneliness. However the decision came about, the terms

and conditions of second marriages differed significantly from first marriages.