This is a revolutionary reinterpretation of the French past from the early fifteenth century to the establishment of the Third Republic, focused on public challenges and defenses of masculine hierarchy in relations between women and men. Karen Offen surveys heated exchanges around women's 'influence'; their exclusion from 'authority'; the increasing prominence of biomedical thinking and population issues; concerns about education, intellect, and the sexual politics of knowledge; and the politics of women's work. Initially, the majority of commentators were literate and influential men. However, as more and more women attained literacy, they too began to analyze their situation in print and to contest men's claims about who women were and should be, and what they should be restrained from doing, and why. As urban print culture exploded and revolutionary ideas of 'equality' fuelled women's claims for emancipation, this question resonated throughout francophone Europe and, ultimately, across the seas.
About the Author
Karen Offen is a historian and a Senior Scholar with the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, California, where she received her Ph.D.
Table of ContentsConfronting the woman question in French history: a general introduction; 1. Querying women's power and influence in French culture; 2. Assessing the problem of women and political authority in French history; 3. Bio-medical thinking, population concerns, and the politics of sexual knowledge; 4. Education, intellect, and the sexual politics of knowledge; 5. The politics of women's history in nineteenth-century France; 6. The politics of women's work in France before 1870; 7. Taking stock: the women question on the eve of the Third Republic; Appendix with important dates; Index.