status of women in 19th century europe
Did the status of Women in European Society improve or decline during the 19th Century?
The 19th Century was a time of mass change across the European map, both industrially and socially. The situation of women differed from country to country, yet the emergence of new ideas, revolutionaries and socialists allowed women to progress in society. Gaining vital freedoms and responsibilities which they had not experienced in the previous Centuries.
However, this does not necessarily mean that the status of all women improved in 19th Century society. Social freedoms that were experienced by women in some societies were revoked from women in others. For example, in British society, many women faced the risk of deportation and slave labour across the empire.1
What we must first analyse, to get a better sense of perspective for women in 19th Century society, is the situation of women in the 18th Century. Traditionally, men where seen as the superior sex and it was the widely accepted viewpoint that, in marriage, men were supposed to rule over their wives and all property belonged to the husbands. Politically, women possessed virtually no formal rights and were confined to a small sector of the economy in which their work would be seen as an ‘extension of domestic responsibilities.’2
During the period of the 1789 revolutions in France, Women began to demand better education and protection of their property rights.3 This outlines the emergence of the ‘New Woman’ in France and how they began to demand civil and political rights as early as 1789. A time when most women, especially in other European countries were confined to the home and such advances would probably have been seen as preposterous.
It is important to recognise that revolutionary participation did have some significance for women as their status experienced variations between the years 1789 and 1804. They obtained the legal right to marry without parental consent and more
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