French Revolution

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The French Revolution, which took place between 1789 and 1795, changed every aspect of France economically, politically, religiously, and especially socially. All of these structures were demolished and recreated. A new era of France was manifested, as with all new things, it was turbulent; especially for women, where did they fit into this new social structure? The rapid changes taking place in France effected women's status, profession, and lifestyle, all of which had to be re-evaluated in their roles in a new society. Throughout this harsh period of time, women managed to play a vital role, and even played a more dominant role in the revolution than had been the norm in previous years. This was a period in which women would be very politically active. This was exemplified through clubs and political movements, often controversially. However, participation varied greatly, depending on their social standing and class. Women did not share the same experience.  

Picture: The women in the French Revolution

            During the age of enlighten, roughly 1740 -1780, single or married women had very limited rights. The women were expected to meet specific standards such as: being chaste and produce heirs to prolong the family. Not only were they expected to produce kids but also expected to be charming, well dressed and pleasing to look at because this would represent the social status of their father or husband. Being able to meet the standards of her husband or father was an on going process, which developed through out each relationship. It was more then just being submissive to father or husband but also following their rules and regulations. So basically when a woman was single she remained under her fathers’ custody until she was married, but once she got married then the total rights would be transferred to her husband’s rule. Once she was married she had no control over her person or her property, the only way for a lady to gain some independence would be for her husband to die. Robert Joseph Prothier, a legal expert, explained how customary law impacted women “Our customary law has put women into such condition of dependence on their husbands that they can do nothing valid, nothing the civil law will recognize unless they have been specifically authorized by their husband to do it.” Each household sphere would be different for the women who lived in it. The domestic sphere was compulsory for women; sometimes the wives of middle class families would be given the privilege to help with the husband’s trade as long as they were not interfering in their duties. In the reformation period a lady’s role was as a wife and mother in the household sphere, which was so critical because she was the one who took charge of all the duties. These duties would consist of her breast- Feeding and educating their children, but they should not venture to take active positions outside the home. Her involvement in the house kept her away from all other areas of life, and participation in artisan trades. Women were not allowed to attend universities, and as a result, their education could only extend to the knowledge of traditional “women’s work.” As it is in our time, there was a strong link between educational background and job opportunities. Because women did not receive much education they were denied entry to desirable professions. The only type of job available to them was work in which they had “skill” such as wet nurses, seamstresses, maids and other jobs that were a component of the domestic sphere. These jobs kept their wages low, forcing them to stay under men’s custody and control. When the ideas of the Enlightenment began to spread, women began to realize that they had rights too, according to the principles of democracy and Individualism. Women all throughout Europe and especially in France began to form salons, which were a form of gathering, and to educate one another. These salons usually consisted of debates allowing...
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