Why not simply tailor? Why “Female” Tailor?
In pre-17th century Portugal, tailoring was a men’s occupation and only male professionals were accepted in the Nossa Senhora de Candeias guid (tailors, clothing merchants, hat makers, and scabbard makers). They were called alfaiates.
However, during my research on 15th and 16th century Portuguese guilds and respective occupations, I found royal documents referring to women being exceptionally accepted in the tailor’s guild. These royal decrees, signed by Dom Afonso V in 1442, name the 4 women receiving royal favors regarding their position as mistresses in the guild. These are their names:
– Aviziboa, from Tomar (Lisboa, Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Chancelaria de D. Afonso V, vol. 23, fol. 68);
– Dona Oiro, from Elvas (Lisboa, Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Chancelaria de D. Afonso V, vol. 23, fol. 76r);
– Miriam, from Elvas (Lisboa, Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Chancelaria de D. Afonso V, vol. 23, fol. 76r);
– Dona de Brazalay, from Tomar (Lisboa, Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Chancelaria de D. Afonso V, vol. 23, fol. 114r).
As Portuguese is a gendered language, these women were referred to as alfaiatas (singular: alfaiata), as opposed to the masculine/neutral alfaiate. Since the distinction was important during the 16th century, it is also important to my SCA persona. As gendering is not a feature of the English language and the word tailor is neutral, I adopted “female tailor” to maintain the custom of pre-17th century Portugal.
What is your preferred SCA title?
Although I am comfortable with being addressed as Lady, as it is standard in the SCA, I would rather be referred to as Dona.
When Dom Afonso V of Portugal signed royal decrees inducting women in the tailor’s guild in 1442, Dona was the form of address employed in those documents .
I am currently working on documenting the use of Dona as an alternate title for Portuguese personas, as I have collected several documents with examples of its use during period. Although Doña and Señora are both accepted for SCA Spanish personas, currently the only documented title for Portugal is Senhora.
My preference for Dona comes from my knowledge of nuances of the Portuguese language. While both are respectful forms of address, we can trace a parallel between the connotations of Senhora and Dona to Mrs. and Ms. in English, respectively. The term Senhora comes attached to suppositions of age and marital status, while Dona is a blanket form of respectful address and was originally employed as the title of choice for Portuguese noble women.
Hence, when the use of titles becomes necessary, please refer to me as Dona Aurelia Alfaiata d’Alcaçova.
SCA name pronunciation guide
What is the meaning of your SCA name?
My SCA name is Aurelia Alfaiata d’Alcaçova.
Aurelia has been a common given name in Portugal for centuries. The modern spelling includes an acute accent (Aurélia), but the accent was absent before the 17th century. It has a latin origin, and is a derivation of the word aureus, meaning golden. My choice of name was influenced by a character from the novel Senhora by José de Alencar, the last book of a trilogy about the position of women in Brazil’s 19th century society.
Alfaiata means female tailor, and it was added as an occupational byname. It befits my SCA persona, and as stated here , references an early case of women being accepted in a previously male-only occupation.
Alcaçova is a locative byname, referring to the Portuguese village of Alcáçova. Again, the modern spelling includes an acute accent but I was not able to document its use during the 15th or 16th centuries. During that time, the village was a county seat and it is the place were the Peace Treaty of Alcáçovas-Toledo, the treaty that ended the War of the Castillian Sucession, was signed by Portugal and Spain in 1479.
Therefore, the meaning of my persona’s Portuguese name is “Aurelia, the female tailor from Alcaçova”.
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