German Women in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History

By John C. Fout | Go to book overview

Enlightened Reforms and Bavarian Girls' Education
Tradition through Innovation

JOANNE SCHNEIDER

The reform era in Germany, especially as examined by American scholars, is often synonymous with Prussia and politics. Mention is usually made that Bavaria, Württemberg, and Baden also experienced periods of reform. But many interesting questions, particularly those related to social history, remain unexplored. It is the purpose of this essay to raise some of those questions, through an examination of one aspect of the reform era in Bavaria -- specifically, how the reforms in education related to public and private attitudes about women. In the girls' schools created in the wake of the reforms of the early nineteenth century, the traditional image of women was cultivated and preserved. Girls were taught the virtues of being a good wife, mother, and housekeeper. But new themes such as patriotism and loyalty to the state also became important features of the proper education for young girls. What brought the Bavarian state and its leaders to concern themselves with the reform of girls' education?

Reform in the early nineteenth century was the child of the Enlightenment, which encouraged the systematic examination of human society. Problems were to be eliminated through the use of applied human reason. A monarch or his advisers, following enlightened ideas, were to effect reforms that would improve all aspects of life for ruler and ruled alike. One goal, achieved through the reforms, was the creation of a stronger, more efficient government. This new government needed a literate public, because the newly rationalized bureaucracy required a pool

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