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About this book

During the nineteenth century, European women of all countries and social classes experienced dramatic and enduring changes in their familial, working and political lives. However, the history of women at this time is not one of unmitigated progress - theirs was an uphill struggle, fraught with hindrances, hard work and economic downturns, and the increasing intrusion of the public into their innermost private and personal lives.

Breaking away from traditional categories, Rachel G. Fuchs and Victoria E. Thompson provide a sense of the variety and complexity of women's lives across national and regional boundaries, juxtaposing the experiences of women with the perceptions of their lives. Three themes unite this study:

- the tension between tradition and modernity
- the changing relationship between the community and individual
- the shifting boundaries between public and private

Dealing with individual women's lives within a large social and cultural context, Fuchs and Thompson demonstrate how strong and courageous women refused to live within the prescribed domestic roles - and how many became the modern women of the twentieth century.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
During the nineteenth century, European women of all countries and social classes experienced some of the most dramatic and enduring changes in their familial, working, and political lives. This was a century of revolution — 1789, 1830, 1848, 1871 — punctuated by uprisings, rebellions, and mass demonstrations. Europeans formed new states and overseas empires, and more people gained the right to speak and write freely, to form associations, and, in the case of some men, to vote. It was also a century of repeated industrial and technological change. Mechanized printing presses, indoor plumbing, railroads, electric light, department stores, large factories, and large-scale, commercial agriculture were all introduced in the years between 1780 and 1914. Tens of thousands of people moved from countryside to city, from city to city, and from metropole to Empire. More people than ever learned how to read and write, and spent their leisure time engaged in new activities such as riding bicycles or watching motion pictures.
Rachel G. Fuchs, Victoria E. Thompson

1. The Era of the French Revolution

Abstract
During the last quarter of the eighteenth century private concerns played out in the public sphere and the public began to invade private space. Women became increasingly present as powerful figures in public arenas as diverse as commerce, literature, and politics. Their exercise of independent agency, however, was not always easy; the patriarchal nature and cultural prescriptions of society endeavored to place women in the private realm of hearth and home. Nevertheless, women used private space to negotiate public affairs as governments and the dominant culture tried to regulate women’s private lives.
Rachel G. Fuchs, Victoria E. Thompson

2. Reproduction and Sexuality

Abstract
The French Revolution framed nineteenth-century European politics and culture, but issues of death, sex, and birth affected women’s private lives. Throughout the century, women’s private sexual and reproductive lives became open to public scrutiny, as economic and public policies blurred the boundaries between public and private. Bioreasoning, or thinking about women in terms of their bodies and biology, shaped Western European attitudes during the nineteenth century, affecting gender identities, sexuality, and ideas of reproduction and sexuality. Attitudes toward women’s reproductive biology infused politics. Europe’s new cultural elites believed that because of women’s sexual and reproductive roles, their bodies could disrupt the social order and therefore needed to be observed and restrained, discursively and legally. Moreover, toward the end of the century, the biopolitics of each nation regarded power in terms of the quantity and quality of its population. Since women were the procreators, and responsibility for reproduction was gendered female, fertility rates loom important for a history of nineteenth-century women. The term “fertility rate” is defined as the average number of children that a woman gave birth to; concern with this rate indicates the essential role of women in national politics.
Rachel G. Fuchs, Victoria E. Thompson

3. Family Life

Abstract
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, social commentators lament the breakdown of the family. Focusing on modern single-mother and lesbian or gay families, they bemoan the end of the traditional family, usually idealized as the married, nuclear, heterosexual, coresidential, two-parent family. Historical research, however, reveals that throughout the nineteenth century a variety of family forms existed, ranging from single-parent families, to same-sex families, to mixed gender and same gender communities that functioned as families, to extended households of related and unrelated coresidents, to kinship groups either living together or not, to the legally married two-parent nuclear family with or without children. Because of the high death rates, single-parent families and blended families were quite common in the nineteenth century. A family could consist of kin who may or may not have been coresident and it could also be a household unit consisting of members who may have been unrelated by marriage or blood. A family was not just the heterosexual, married, two-parent, nuclear family living together, although nineteenth century writers defined the family as the conjugal unit. Families were historical constructions. Throughout the nineteenth century, family formations and definitions were fluid and overlapping, depending on time and circumstances, including kin, coresidency, and nonconjugal relationships. The private realm of the family was complex and increasingly more public.
Rachel G. Fuchs, Victoria E. Thompson

4. Working for Wages

Abstract
Women worked. Some worked within their families while others worked for wages outside the home. Despite the dictum that work outside the home was for men and work inside was for women, during the nineteenth century women increasingly worked for wages outside the home. In many instances women and girls would begin their working lives at the same age as men and boys, around seven years of age. Young women would continue working for wages until after their marriage and the birth of their first child, or for their entire life with nary a break. Married women who did not continue to work for wages after their children were born became dependent on the male breadwinner, filling their prescribed gender role of staying home. Their domestic work was still work, however, since it included sewing, cooking, and marketing, and required the supervision of children and often servants. During economic downturns, or when their husbands were sick or disabled, these women also may have taken in homework, such as laundry and sewing, but such work would have been hidden from their neighbors, from the census takers, and from historians. Moreover, low wages and unemployment among men sometimes required their wives to work outside the home and undermined men’s purported authority within the home. The dominant male discourse may have considered the concept of a woman worker outside the home as blasphemous, but that did not prohibit other men from hiring women for lower wages than they would have had to pay men.
Rachel G. Fuchs, Victoria E. Thompson

5. Education

Abstract
In the middle of the nineteenth century, French writer Jules Michelet declared, “every woman is a school.” He meant that every woman had both the capacity and the duty to teach her children. This idea of woman as educator was one of the most profound and long-lasting legacies of the Enlightenment. It altered ideas about education everywhere in Europe. However, while the idea of woman as educator of her children gained widespread acceptance throughout Europe, the consequences of that idea for educational practices, institutions, and curricula were less clear. Although women were considered “natural” educators, the extent and type of education they themselves required were widely debated.
Rachel G. Fuchs, Victoria E. Thompson

6. Culture, the Arts, and Sciences

Abstract
In the nineteenth century, the arts and sciences were important in providing individuals with a way to understand and talk about their society. The novels, poems, paintings, and musical scores that artists created were subjects of discussion, serving as catalysts in debates concerning the direction of social, political, and economic change. Artistic movements such as Romanticism and Realism stirred great passions, leading sometimes to angry exchanges as one manner of representing reality clashed with another. In a period in which the industrial and political revolutions, begun in the second half of the eighteenth century, still had to play themselves out, the arts could serve as a battleground for definitions of what society could and should be.
Rachel G. Fuchs, Victoria E. Thompson

7. On the Move

Abstract
In November 1862 an article appeared in the London Times whose headline, “Lady Travelers on the White Nile,” must have sparked many an imagination. The travelers in question were Dutchwoman Alexandrine Tinné (1835–69), at 22 years of age one of the wealthiest heiresses in Europe, her mother, and her aunt. Their quest to find the source of the Nile was unsuccessful, but it inspired young women who were drawn by the same desire for adventure. As Matilda Betham-Edwards put it in her 1880 Six Life Stories of Famous Women, “Sedentariness is not a normal condition of things, and most young people possessed of high spirits and good health would choose an out-of-door, breezy, adventurous life, if choice were possible.”1
Rachel G. Fuchs, Victoria E. Thompson

8. Associational Life

Abstract
Although contemporary literature and social commentary prescribed women’s activities as limited to their homes and families, women of all social and economic groups left those homes to go out into public arenas — to work, to travel, or to associate with other women in a wide variety of charitable, philanthropic, and social reform endeavors. Association and sociability had brought women into public life throughout the centuries, yet associations flourished in the nineteenth century. On the eve of the First World War, women in the German town of Wuppertal-Eberfield, for example, could belong to any of the town’s 30 women’s associations. Six of these were concerned with trades, four with welfare, and two with religion. The others included an association for legal protection, a female hiking group, a temperance organization, and an association to promote women’s suffrage. By this time in Germany as a whole, it is estimated that about 500,000 women were active in women’s associations.
Rachel G. Fuchs, Victoria E. Thompson

9. Feminism and Politics

Abstract
Few concepts in European women’s history have generated as much discussion and disagreement as the term “feminism.” On a general level, feminism can be defined as the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. A feminist could then be understood as someone who articulated and fought for this belief. Some would argue that both those individuals who fought for women as a group and those who struggled for themselves could be called feminists. While individual women may not have seen their efforts to become painters or scientists, to learn to read, to earn a decent wage, or to participate in associational life as part of a feminist struggle, their accomplishments often inspired others by proving that women could excel in areas formally reserved for men. This chapter focuses on individuals who fought for the rights and opportunities of women as a group. These individuals worked alone and with others, to explore and articulate the way in which sex and gender shaped personal interactions, social and economic life, politics, science, philosophy, and culture. During the nineteenth century, their goal was to end the secondary gender status of women in all areas. In her encyclopedic work on European Feminisms, the historian Karen Offen has defined feminism as “the name given to a comprehensive critical response to the deliberate and systematic subordination of women as a group by men as a group within a given cultural setting.”1
Rachel G. Fuchs, Victoria E. Thompson

Conclusion

Abstract
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.
Rachel G. Fuchs, Victoria E. Thompson
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