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Abstract

There is a growing call for the inclusion of intersectionality within disability studies and history. Included in this is the history of court dwarfs in Early Modern Europe, specifically the life experiences of female court dwarfs. Previous scholarship has too often generalized the lives of court dwarfs and highlighted experiences unique to male court dwarfs. These experiences reveal early gender expectations on disabled women not experienced by their male counterparts. This thesis exposes in detail how the lives of three women were impacted based on two key points: their accepted careers within domesticity and their experiences through enforced reproduction. Finally, this thesis divulges in the use of gendered language and imagery to reinforce such expectations and ideas. All three women balanced life as entertainers within the private and public spheres. They dealt with dehumanization while also gaining autonomy and privileges not granted to women of lower status, suggesting a complex period of servitude with some freedom. This thesis highlights the importance of intersectionality in research and the sources themselves. Included sources range from portraits and narrative scenes to letters and memoirs.

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