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Ap European History Dbq- Women

Oct 08, 1999 1046 Words
The 17th and 18th centuries saw the embryonic stage of women’s quest for intellectual and social parity with men. The evolution of women’s fight for equal opportunities was bogged down by a long history of stereotyping and condescension. Women were weaker physically, bore children and nurtured them. The economics and culture of Europe at this time was strongly influenced by religion and resulted in prejudice against women. The dominating religions of Europe in the 1600’s and 1700’s (Catholicism and Protestantism), citing the bible, reinforced women’s roles as mother’s, wives, and homemakers. Women were considered the weaker sex both physically and mentally. Men and most women assumed that because women gave birth and produced milk for their infants, God intended that their place was in the home. Men’s egos, as well, did not allow for women to compete with them. Males thought their place was to rule, fight wars, provide income, teach and be the head of his family. Women were not accepted in academics, politics, church leadership, business, or the military. Despite these prejudices, women saw an opportunity in the sciences. As a discipline based on observations and deductive reasoning it did not necessarily require a comprehensive academic background. Since most women were deprived of the more advanced education that men received, it was the perfect field for them to begin their pursuit of equality. As a result, a growing number of women actively participated in scientific research in chemistry, astronomy, biology, botany, medicine, and entomology. In documents two and five the women’s interests in science, as well as their need for some sort of education were expressed. Document five simply explains that women, as well as men, can hold an interest, as well as succeed in science. In document two, written by Marie Meurdrac, a French scientist, the statement was made that “minds have no sex, and if the minds of women were cultivated like those of men, they would be equal to the minds of the latter.” This was a very interesting document to examine. Being that it was a passage from the foreword to her text “Chemistry Simplified for Women”; the second earliest out of all the documents (1666), it was quite a revolutionary idea for that time. It explains a key fact about women participating in the field of science at that time. It talks about how a women, as well as a man, can aspire to become a scientist. In fact, if those women who desire to break the sexist barriers restricting women from entering the field could receive an adequate education, equal to that of a man, that woman could accomplish just as much. Documents four, nine, and thirteen all convey the same message, one of equality. Document four does this by illustrating both a male and a female working together to achieve a common scientific task. At first, documents nine and thirteen both tell of how society conceived a “learned woman” to be abnormal. In contrast though, the article describing Dorothea Schlozer, the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from a German university, tells of how a woman can continue to complete her household tasks while excelling in the sciences. The date that this article appeared must also be recognized, it was written in 1787 (the most recent of the documents), signifying this as one of the last big steps to liberate women into the academic field of science. Documents six and seven take it another step further by not only saying that women are equal to men, but in fact they can be more valuable to the advancement of science. Even more surprising is that these two documents were both written by males having jobs in math and science. Document six tells the story of a man who one night had observed a variable star in the sky. Later his wife wanted to see the star, and not only did she see that same star, she also noticed a comet in the sky. Maria Winkelmann had outdone her husband by spotting a comet, an important astronomical occurrence, which her husband had overlooked the night before. Even more astonishing was that her husband was no ordinary citizen, he was a German astronomer. Document seven goes against all previous notions of women, physically and mentally, by insisting that because women do not have to deal with the troublesome and laborious tasks of men (such as wars, affairs of state, and economics) they are “more capable of contemplating the good and the beautiful.” This can be taken as a compliment to a women’s more objective examination of her surroundings which men taint with their bias’s and ambitions. Four out of the five documents against women participating in the sciences (documents one, three, eight, and ten) all written by men, are almost solely based on stereotypical, traditional views of women. These documents gave several ideas, without good reasons, of why women belong in the house and with the children rather than studying science. The statements contained stereotypical views of women including how a women’s beauty was lessened, how she could not continue to do the chores of the house as efficiently, or how the fact that a woman attempts scientific studies (despite her qualifications) was embarrassing. The other one of the documents against the equality of opportunities for women was document twelve. I separated this document from the others for one specific reason. This article seems purely prejudiced against women and surprisingly, it is written by a woman, which implies that the author of this article simply had the same traditional beliefs as men. Years of conditioning and strict adherence to religious teachings of the era kept many women from breaking away from their traditional roles. While most people in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries retained stereotypical beliefs on women, a growing number of intellectuals tried to loosen these traditional values by allowing them to study science. Science was an opening for women to use observation and deduction, skills acquired from everyday living and curiosity, to try and clear some misconceptions that most of society had about them.

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