German Women in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History

By John C. Fout | Go to book overview

Growing Up Female in the Nineteenth Century*

JULIANE JACOBI-DITTRICH


I

Könnte ich nicht auch ein Wolkenschwimmer werden? (Couldn't I become a cloud swimmer, too?) -- Bettina von Brentano

The history of women is not only the history of adult women. It has its roots in the history of women as children. In the research on socialization there is no less a controversial proposition than that which propounds that socialization is determined by sex. Varying opinions are held as to the importance and reversibility of sex-determined aspects of socialization; none, however, questions the basic fact. Historians who for the past twenty years have been investigating historical aspects of the conditions for childhood socialization have been primarily concerned with the circumstances of boys' socialization. And aspects determined by sex have rarely been considered, or if they have, it has not yet led to the inclusion of sex (gender) as a category for research. An example of this is Philippe Ariès's telling statement that well into the nineteenth century boys in their early childhood wore the lower-status clothing of women. 1

In this article I seek to shed some light on the history of female childhood. I shall attempt to present a picture of the childhood of middleclass girls throughout the entire nineteenth century. That is a long period of time but justifiable for this topic nonetheless, since from all our knowledge of the history of the family, it can be assumed that the changes that took place during this period were limited in scope. I would even argue

____________________
*
This article was translated with the help of Lynn Hattary-Bayer.

-197-

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