This book has covered European women’s history during what historians refer to as the long nineteenth century; the major demarcations of that century are neither 1800 nor 1900, but rather c.1780 and 1914. The periodization of modern European women’s history begins in the 1780s because in this decade a series of ideological and structural changes ushered in a new era in European women’s lives. Shifts in the ideology about what constituted women’s proper place was part of this change. In the second half of the eighteenth century, writers articulated new ways of thinking about women, while scientists and philosophers began to portray the female sex as distinct from the male. These new perceptions of what it meant to be female had gained broad acceptance by the 1780s and began to shape changes in the legal and political systems of Europe. At the same time, women’s lived experiences underwent fundamental changes, not always matching their prescribed roles. The prescriptive ideology of domesticity and separate spheres became more fully developed in the nineteenth century and was linked to questions of nationalism and citizenship. Some women willingly followed the prescription that placed them in the private sphere of the home. Others thought it a bitter pill and took pens in hand to write treatises on women’s rights. Still others found it irrelevant and took to the streets actively to voice their demands, or were driven out to work by economic necessity. Throughout the nineteenth century, women continued working and writing about or acting out their goals, despite restrictions resulting from a gender imbalance of power.
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Rachel G. Fuchs
Victoria E. Thompson
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number