‘You’ve got “mail”’: Women as Rentiers of Property in Seventeenth-Century Edinburgh

Women's economic roles in seventeenth-century Edinburgh were restricted, but there was still a variety of methods with which they could create an income. One of these was the renting out of property, capitalizing on Edinburgh's booming population and limited space. Indeed, women were conspicuously active as landlords during this period, renting a wide range of properties to individuals from all socioeconomic classes. Additionally, they were able to use their role as landlords to provide other services to their tenants. They can, for instance, be seen both making clothing and running alehouses. This article draws primarily from the 1635 Annuity Tax Roll for Edinburgh to gauge the involvement, marital status, and societal position of women who rented out property. This tax roll takes the reader from door to door through Edinburgh, providing an account of both heads of households and properties. It shows married, widowed, and never-married women acting as landlords, renting either a single room or dozens of properties. When combined with information gleaned from burgh court litigation, a clear image forms, showing women of both poor and wealthy backgrounds using space to create a profit.

 Key Words: women, landlords, rent, mail, tax, debt.