Court records provide invaluable evidence of the existence of laws and notional rights affecting women and how these were (or were not) enforced and exercised. Many documents provide tantalizing glimpses of female thinking and echoes of female voices, but these remain elusive because of the influence of the lawyers, scribes, and officials who helped shape and record them. This article examines the multiple difficulties that researchers face in distinguishing women's contributions from those of lawyers in legal records, and argues that the artificial nature of legal processes complicates conceptions of “authentic” female voices. It suggests ways to address methodological problems and concludes that focusing on multiple voices and processes of collaboration may bear more fruit than seeking to extract individual women's private thoughts and words.
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