German Women in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History

By John C. Fout | Go to book overview

and in other societies on the issue of female homicide. Our findings, nevertheless, permit some interesting and important observations. First, we have no reason to believe that women are particularly good victims, either because they are weak or because they they often accept traditional social roles. In an interesting study which treats interfamilial violence in Victorian England, Nancy Tomes has argued recently that "in 1890, working-class women were far less likely to experience physical violence at the hands of a man than they were in 1840." 26 Her argument was that English working-class women had actually by this time experienced a decline in their economic and social status, but that they less often worked, and more often resigned themselves to traditional roles, and thus they acted subserviently to their men and allowed their men to act as their protectors. If Tomes is correct, it appears that English women were like German women in that women who accepted a traditional role were less likely to be harmed than women who did not. Most people think that German women in the years we have studied were much more traditional-minded than women in England or many other societies. Our study shows that German women were much less likely to be murdered than were German men. And since both German men and German women in comparison with men and women in other societies had low homicide death rates, most German women were, therefore, relatively safe from homicidal violence. 27 But women who broke away from traditional roles, either by getting married at an early age, by not getting married at all, or by moving off to the city, were in more danger of getting murdered than those who followed a traditional life style. In Imperial Germany more and more women did go off to the city to seek employment and opportunity and perhaps more and more women sought parity with men. In relation to homicide, at least, women were making some headway, but they would probably have preferred to forsake this particular kind of parity.


NOTES
1
There are, of course, some exceptions. See, for example, Caesar Lombroso and William Ferrero, The Female Offender ( New York, 1895), and Otto Pollak , Criminality of Women ( New York, 1961). Pollak's work even mentions some German studies dealing at least partially with the role of German women in criminality, such as George von Mayr Statistik und Gesellschaftslehre ( Tübingen, 1917). Recently there have been several major studies which investigate the patterns of crime in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-centuryGermany,

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