Bringing It All Back Home: Class, Gender & Power in the Modern World

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In Ireland studies of women, and gender relationships more generally, had been rare before ; they now are commonplace with some books and articles in print. French historians have taken a unique approach: there has been an extensive scholarship in women's and gender history despite the lack of women's and gender study programs or departments at the university level.

But approaches used by other academics in the research of broadly based social histories have been applied to the field of women's history as well. The high level of research and publication in women's and gender history is due to the high interest within French society. The structural discrimination in academia against the subject of gender history in France is changing due to the increase in international studies following the formation of the European Union, and more French scholars seeking appointments outside Europe. Before the 19th century, young women lived under the economic and disciplinary authority of their fathers until they married and passed under the control of their husbands.

In order to secure a satisfactory marriage, a woman needed to bring a substantial dowry. In the wealthier families, daughters received their dowry from their families, whereas the poorer women needed to work in order to save their wages so as to improve their chances to wed. Under the German laws, women had property rights over their dowries and inheritances, a valuable benefit as high mortality rates resulted in successive marriages.

Before , the majority of women lived confined to society's private sphere, the home. The Age of Reason did not bring much more for women: men, including Enlightenment aficionados, believed that women were naturally destined to be principally wives and mothers. Within the educated classes, there was the belief that women needed to be sufficiently educated to be intelligent and agreeable interlocutors to their husbands. However, the lower-class women were expected to be economically productive in order to help their husbands make ends meet.

In the newly founded German State , women of all social classes were politically and socially disenfranchised. The code of social respectability confined upper class and bourgeois women to their homes. They were considered socially and economically inferior to their husbands. The unmarried women were ridiculed, and the ones who wanted to avoid social descent could work as unpaid housekeepers living with relatives; the ablest could work as governesses or they could become nuns.

A significant number of middle-class families became impoverished between and as the pace of industrial growth was uncertain, and women had to earn money in secret by sewing or embroidery to contribute to the family income. The two movements had differing views concerning women's place in society, and accordingly, they also had different agendas.

The bourgeois movement made important contributions to the access of women to education and employment mainly office-based and teaching. The proletarian movement, on the other hand, developed as a branch of the Social Democratic Party. As factory jobs became available for women, they campaigned for equal pay and equal treatment.

In German women won the right to join political parties, and in they were finally granted the right to vote. The emancipation of women in Germany was to be challenged in following years. Historians have paid special attention to the efforts by Nazi Germany to reverse the political and social gains that women made before , especially in the relatively liberal Weimar Republic. Theoretically, the Nazis believed that women must be subservient to men, avoid careers, devote themselves to childbearing and child-rearing, and be helpmates to the traditional dominant fathers in the traditional family.

After Hitler came to power in , the activist women were replaced by bureaucratic women, who emphasized feminine virtues, marriage, and childbirth. As Germany prepared for war, large numbers of women were incorporated into the public sector and, with the need for full mobilization of factories by , all women were required to register with the employment office.

Hundreds of thousands of women served in the military as nurses and support personnel, and another hundred thousand served in the Luftwaffe , especially helping to operate the anti-aircraft systems. More than two million women were murdered in the Holocaust. The Nazi ideology viewed women generally as agents of fertility. Accordingly, it identified the Jewish woman as an element to be exterminated to prevent the rise of future generations.

Introduction to Gender, Sex, and Sexuality

For these reasons, the Nazis treated women as prime targets for annihilation in the Holocaust. Interest in the study of women's history in Eastern Europe has been delayed.

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Academia resisted incorporating this specialized field of history, primarily because of the political atmosphere and a lack of institutional support. Before , historiography dealt chiefly with nationalist themes that supported the anti-democratic political agenda of the state. After , academia reflected a Soviet model.

Instead of providing an atmosphere in which women could be the subjects of history, this era ignored the role of the women's rights movement in the early 20th century. The collapse of Communism in was followed by a decade of promising developments in which biographies of prominent Hungarian women were published, and important moments of women's political and cultural history were the subjects of research.

However, the quality of this scholarship was uneven and failed to take advantage of the methodological advances in research in the West. In addition, institutional resistance continued, as evidenced by the lack of undergraduate or graduate programs dedicated to women's and gender history at Hungarian universities. Women's history in Russia started to become important in the Czarist era, and concern was shown in the consciousness and writing of Alexander Pushkin.

During the Soviet Era, feminism was developed along with ideals of equality, but in practice and in domestic arrangements, men often dominate. By the s new periodicals, especially Casus and Odysseus: Dialogue with Time, Adam and Eve stimulated women's history and, more recently, gender history. Using the concept of gender has shifted the focus from women to socially and culturally constructed notions of sexual difference. It has led to deeper debates on historiography and holds a promise of stimulating the development of a new "general" history able to integrate personal, local, social, and cultural history.


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General overviews of women in Asian history are scarce, since most specialists focus on China, Japan, India, Korea or another traditionally defined region. Published work generally deals with women as visible participants in the revolution, employment as vehicles for women's liberation, Confucianism and the cultural concept of family as sources of women's oppression. While rural marriage rituals, such as bride price and dowry, have remained the same in form, their function has changed. This reflects the decline of the extended family and the growth in women's agency in the marriage transaction.

The book, the first to give a systematic introduction to women's history in China, has strongly influenced further research in this field. The book sheds a light on Chinese women's life ranging from ancient times prior to Zhou Dynasty to the Republic of China.

In the book, sections are separated based on dynasties in China. Sections are divided into segments to introduce different themes, such as marriage, feudal ethical codes, education for women, virtues, positions, the concept of chastity, foot-binding and women's rights movement in modern China. Inspired by the anti-traditional thoughts in New Culture Movement , the author devoted much effort to disclosing and denouncing the unfairness and suppression in culture, institutions, and life that victimize women in China. According to the book, women's conditions are slightly improved until modern China.

The author revealed the motivation: the book intends to explain how the principle of women being inferior to men evolves; how the abuse to women is intensified over time; and how the misery on women's back experience the history change. The author wants to promote women's liberation by revealing the political and social suppression of women. Mann explores how Chinese biographers have depicted women over two millennia BCE to , especially during the Han dynasty.

Gender and development

Zhang Xuecheng, Sima Qian, and Zhang Huiyan and other writers often study women of the governing class, and their representation in domestic scenes of death in the narratives and in the role of martyrs. The historiography of women in the history of Tibet confronts the suppression of women's histories in the social narratives of an exiled community. McGranahan examines the role of women in the 20th century, especially during the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet.

She studies women in the Tibetan resistance army, the subordination of women in a Buddhist society, and the persistent concept of menstrual blood as a contaminating agent.

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Japanese women's history was marginal to historical scholarship until the late 20th century. The subject hardly existed before , and, even after that date, many academic historians were reluctant to accept women's history as a part of Japanese history. The social and political climate of the s in particular, favorable in many ways to women, gave opportunities for Japanese women's historiography and also brought the subject fuller academic recognition.

Exciting and innovative research on Japanese women's history began in the s. Much of this has been conducted not only by academic women's historians, but also by freelance writers, journalists, and amateur historians; that is, by people who have been less restricted by traditional historical methods and expectations.

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The study of Japanese women's history has become accepted as part of the traditional topics. With a handful of exceptions, there was a little serious history of women in Australia or New Zealand before the s. A pioneering study was Patricia Grimshaw , Women's Suffrage in New Zealand , explaining how that remote colony became the first country in the world to give women the vote.

Women's history as an academic discipline emerged in the mids, typified by Miriam Dixson , The Real Matilda: Woman and Identity in Australia, to the Present The first studies were compensatory, filling in the vacuum where women had been left out. In common with developments in the United States and Britain, there was a movement toward gender studies, with a field dominated by feminists.

Other important topics include demography and family history. In the s scholarship began to appear on topics regarding the Middle East. Numerous short studies have appeared for women's history in African nations. There are numerous studies for specific countries and regions, such as Nigeria. Scholars have turned their imagination to innovative sources for the history of African women, such as songs from Malawi, weaving techniques in Sokoto, and historical linguistics.