Gender Studies and Latin America

$55.00 hardcover

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No Mere Shadows: Faces of Widowhood in Early Colonial Mexico

Shirley Cushing Flint

Three generations of women in one family are the characters in this intimate historical study of what it meant to be a widow in sixteenth-century Mexico City. Shirley Cushing Flint has used archival research to tell the stories of five women in the Estrada family—a mother, three daughters, and a granddaughter—from the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1520 until the 1580s. Each was once married and when widowed chose not to remarry. Their stories illustrate the constraints placed upon them both as women and as widows by the religious, secular, and legal cultures of the time and how each refused to be bound by those constraints.

Money, influence, knowledge, and connections all come into play as the widows maneuver to hold onto property. Each of their stories illustrates an aspect of Spanish life in the New World that has heretofore been largely overlooked.


Shirley Cushing Flint is coeditor and coauthor of The Latest Word from 1540: People, Places, and Portrayals of the Coronado Expedition, The Coronado Expedition: From the Distance of 460 Years, and Documents of the Coronado Expedition, 1539–1542. She and her husband and collaborator, Richard Flint, live in Villanueva, New Mexico.


“An important contribution to both the history of sixteenth-century Mexico and women’s history.”


New Mexico Historical Review

No Mere Shadows is an extremely valuable historical reconstruction. It eloquently demonstrates that the textures of socio-cultural life can be reconstructed through rigorous archival research.”



“Shirley Cushing Flint introduces readers to a remarkable family of widows in early Colonial Mexico, illuminating over three generations not only their determined, intelligent, informed strategies to retain wealth, reputation, and family—their successes and setbacks—but also through their negotiations we see up close the contradictions of civil and ecclesiastical law, the erratic administration of encomiendas, the workings of patronage networks and legal suits and the hatreds that flared between Spaniards and Mexicans over rights to property—all through an angle of vision that is domestic and familial.”


Sandra Lauderdale Graham, author of Caetana Says No: Women’s Stories from a Brazilian Slave Society

6 x 9 in. 208 pages 18 halftones, 3 maps, 5 charts