German Women in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History

By John C. Fout | Go to book overview

adventures, other forms of sexuality, or any close friendships other than what was acceptable. Lewald's dream of the female professor in Bologna is moderate and even realistic in comparison to Brentano Wolkenschwimmer. The women who largely shaped the women's movement in the period of the second half of the nineteenth century and up until World War I ( Lange, Bäumer, Weber, Tiburtius) did not dream of any "new worlds." 31 The main criticism of their childhoods was the poor education they received. Almost all these women perceived their childhood as a harmonious time. Sexuality was definitely not a subject which a nineteenth-century woman was able to write about without risking her social status. Most of the women examined here felt no such restriction.

To summarize, it may be said the childhood of these women is not distinguished by anything out of the ordinary. That they were able to plan their own lives was made possible by family circumstances, being Jewish, early intellectual interests, and economic necessity. By abandoning the prescribed way of life for women, they were able to fight for women's rights and for life styles outside conventional marriages. In later life, they all were active in the fight to improve women's education, which proves that they had reflected critically on their childhood. It was not really until the twentieth century that some successes were achieved, namely, a change in girls' childhood development, but we know now that the work is not yet finished. There are barriers which none of them foresaw except Marianne Weber.

The identity of these women developed within a tension -- between the accepted goals of socialization that were then prevalent and their intellectual interests -- a tension between their desire for autonomy and their needs which conformed to the goals of socialization. There was no set pattern for life. That is also the reason why love affairs with men played such an important role in the lives of some of these women -- more important than in the lives of men. That is also the reason why these women's career goals were usually derivatives of "motherhood." We cannot simply attribute that to patriarchal influence. As women, we must ask ourselves if our childhood as girls -- which had these same tensions -- did not also shape our lives with all the corresponding ambiguous identities?


NOTES
1.
Philippe Ariès, Centuries of Childhood ( New York, 1969), pp. 50-61.
2.
Dittrich Eckhard and Juliane Dittrich-Jacobi, "Die Autobiographie als Quelle zur Sozialgeschichte der Erziehung," in Aus Geschichten lernen, ed. by

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