extent of footbinding in Ming

Katherine Newman Carlitz's picture

In Ming dynasty chastity-stories and epitaphs, I have come across references to mothers of literati who helped their families by working in the fields or carrying food to workers in the fields.  Does this indicate that these women's feet were not bound?  Or does it, rather, indicate that women with bound feet *could* still work in the fields where necessary?  (Ming sources suggest that most women's family-helpful work was textile work that could be done sitting.)

There's plenty of evidence from the early twentieth century that women with bound feet did agricultural labor, as well as evidence that nonelite women (at least) bound, let out, and rebound their feet over the course of their lifetimes.

See, for example,

Melissa J. Brown, Laurel Bossen, Hill Gates, and Damian Satterthwaite-Phillips. 2012. “Marriage Mobility and Footbinding in Pre-1949 Rural China” Journal of Asian Studies 71(4): 1035–1067 (doi:10.1017/S0021911812001271).

Melissa J. Brown. 2016. “Footbinding, Industrialization, and Evolutionary Explanation: An Empirical Illustration of Niche Construction and Social Inheritance” Human Nature 27.4 (December 2016), doi: 10.1007/s12110-016-9268-5.