Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Hawisa

signature image

Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party (Heritage Floor; detail), 1974–79. Porcelain with rainbow and gold luster, 48 x 48 x 48 ft. (14.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 m). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography

Date of birth unknown; d. 1213/14, England

Hawisa (Halwisa, Hawise), daughter and heir of Count William of Aumale (anglicized as Albemarle), was unmarried at the time of her father's death and thus became a royal ward. Described by the early English chronicler Richard Devizes as "a woman who was almost a man, lacking nothing virile except virility," Hawisa attempted to lead an independent existence, at times challenging custom and law. She was married and widowed three times; each marriage was enforced by the crown and deemed necessary to preserve the integrity of her lands and title. In 1212, after her third husband died, she paid King John the fabulous sum of 5,000 marks to secure possession of her inheritance without having to marry again. Hawisa was one of the largest Anglo-Norman landowners of the early thirteenth century, with estates at Aumale, Skipsea, Castle Bytham, Skipton, and Holderness. She issued charters in her own name, an unusual practice for women of her time.

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