This is a revolutionary reinterpretation of the French past from the early fifteenth century to the establishment of the Third Republic, focused on public challenges and defenses of masculine hierarchy in relations between women and men. Karen Offen surveys heated exchanges around women’s ‘influence’; their exclusion from ‘authority’; the increasing prominence of biomedical thinking and population issues; concerns about education, intellect, and the sexual politics of knowledge; and the politics of women’s work. Initially, the majority of commentators were literate and influential men. However, as more and more women attained literacy, they too began to analyze their situation in print and to contest men’s claims about who women were and should be, and what they should be restrained from doing, and why. As urban print culture exploded and revolutionary ideas of ‘equality’ fuelled women’s claims for emancipation, this question resonated throughout francophone Europe and, ultimately, across the seas.
- Proposes an innovative, gendered, and thematic view of French history from 1400 to 1870 (up to the Third Republic), in which the ‘woman question’ is front and center
- Provides and analyzes the actual debates on the ‘woman question’ as they took place over time, with attention to defenders of the masculine-dominated status quo as well as to the challengers who contested male hegemony, placing partisans on both sides in the context of their times
- Written in narrative prose, without theoretical jargon or conceit; no theoretical template has been imposed
More about the book
Karen Offen. The Woman Question in France, 1400–1870, (Cambridge University Press, 2017) Hardcover.
Karen Offen is a historian and a Senior Scholar with the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, California, where she received her Ph.D.