This essay examines the economic activities and "work" of aristocratic women, c.1000–c.1400. Despite the limitations posed by law, custom, and social expectation, women played a central role in preserving and transferring family wealth through marriage, gifts, and inheritance. They were equally crucial in matters of household and estate management. Both older and recent scholarship explores the complexity of the woman's experience within the European family. Her role was neither rigidly static nor in perpetual flux. The diversity of a woman's economic responsibilities and her influence in the family reveal the inherent flexibility of the medieval family, once considered staunchly patriarchal. While some have argued that the patrilineal descent group was narrowing in this period, medieval families devised strategies to preserve the integrity of their holdings and to provide for a range of kin, regardless of gender.
Christian literature in late antiquity offered contrasting models of female sanctity, emphasizing alternately the gender ambiguity of the young woman dressed as a man, and the nuptial imagery of the bride of Christ. Three texts, the second-century Acts of Paul and Thecla, the fourth-century Letter 22 to Eustochium by Saint Jerome, and the fifth- or sixth-century Passion of Eugenia, illustrate contrasting ways of thinking about how Christian literature could allow a young woman to reinvent herself.
Susan Mosher Stuard
Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, morgengabe, a husband's gift to his wife marking the formal consummation of marriage, was replaced in Italian, southern French, and Spanish towns with Roman dos or dowry, a gift from a bride's family that was her inheritance (legitim). In time, this momentous change spread north beyond the Alps. The resulting dotal regime abetted the monetization of the economy and placed increased authority in the hands of husbands, who managed dowry although they did not own it. A family's honor and prestige rode on grants of dowry. Disputes, lawsuits, and consilia (legal opinions) highlight the consequences of investing sums that were granted for daughters' dowries. In 1425 Florence created the Monte delle Doti to invest family funds for future dowries. Thereafter government finances were entwined with families' finances. To justify separating women's ownership of dowry from men's management, Aristotelian principles of women's incapacity were invoked.
The Byzantines perceived the body as malleable, able to be changed to suit the needs of society. They also believed that the appearance of the outer body reflected the quality of the inner person's soul. As a result, bodily appearance became an important marker for gender, class, and moral worth. Within the religious community, sexuality represented the ungoverned worldliness of the body and abstention the purity of the soul. The Byzantines bridged the gap between the worldly and the ascetic by creating a new kind of man, the eunuch. The eunuch lived and worked outside the realities of family and clan and was believed to have special connections to the spiritual world. Because the Byzantines were so conscious of outward appearances, they regularly commented on the appearance and actions of eunuchs, ascribing to them the best and worst kinds of natures and, in turn, reflecting attitudes about their own bodies.
Given the comparatively slow pace of human evolution, the body, as a biological entity, may be taken more or less as a historical constant during the past 1500 years. But every interaction with that body was mediated by culture, and thus gender analysis is a driving force in the expanding field of the history of health. This essay looks at how changing expectations of gender and knowledge shaped medical and surgical interventions in three circumstances: pregnancy; childbirth emergencies; and the care of intersexed persons. The field of the history of health is still rapidly expanding, and the perspectives of gender analysis are a major part of what is driving that expansion forward.
Carolingian ideas of "home" and "family" encompassed a wide range of meanings from physical buildings to kin and free and unfree dependents. Kinship ties played a vital role, both socially and politically, and marriage practices reflected that; Carolingian reforms respected parents' strategies concerning their children's marriages. The Frankish economy was structured around nuclear households, from peasant tenancies to the huge estates presided over by noble men and women. Male and female activities in both production and consumption were partially, but not completely gender-specific. Dowries provided some economic independence for women, but female wealth often depended on contingent factors such as family size and the attitudes of male relatives. The ordered conjugal household was an important image in Carolingian moral thought, with married women holding a subordinate, but honored position. Frankish ideology focused more on elite women's role in the management of dependents and social networks than on purely "housewifely" activities.
Jean H. Quataert
The chapter centers on the gendering of battlefield services found at the nexus of war, law, and medicine from the 1850s to the 1920s. It offers a sociolegal analysis of the impact of states’ accession to the Geneva Conventions of 1864 (revised in 1906), which brought a medical reform agenda into national life and simultaneously created a global network of relief associations in the international Red Cross movement. Blending global and local analyses, the chapter examines the diverse national struggles that gained women entry into battlefield nursing and explores the complex motives sustaining the work of the gendered medical staff on the global battlefields. It offers a historically sensitive assessment of the evolution of humanitarian practices in their formative ties to war and their place in helping shape the new face of international public health under the League of Nations after 1918.
Citizenship and Gender on the American and Canadian Home Fronts during the First and Second World Wars
This chapter analyzes the impact and consequences of the First and Second World Wars for the home fronts of Canada and the United States, with a particular focus on the definitions of and challenges to gendered systems of citizenship. Many Americans and Canadians actively claimed an expanded citizenship as a reward for their wartime service. However, that service brought imperatives for loyalty and national security that resulted in severe restrictions on civil liberties and citizenship in the name of national security during and after these conflicts. In the First World War, both nations designed programs and propaganda to define citizenship in the narrow confines of “100% Americanism” and “Canadian nationalism” at the expense of diversity and dissent, and they reflected notions of traditional gender roles and suspicion of those who did not follow such prescriptions. Gendered wartime citizenship in Canada and the United States during both world wars related directly to the home-front conceptions of armed conflict and war.
The chapter explores the interrelationship between the emergence of new ways of mass mobilization with volunteers, militias, and universal conscription; the rise of notions of gender as a universal, natural binary opposition; and the rise of men as universal male political subjects in the periods of the wars of revolution and wars of nation-building and nation-keeping from the 1770s to the 1870s. One important theme is the nexus between male military duties and citizenship rights. This nexus was introduced in the French Revolution and later used and transformed in several other contexts. Where it was rejected, it nevertheless made its presence felt in what became a conscious refusal of the French model of the modern citizen-soldier. Always controversial and never fully implemented, even in contexts where it was supposedly fully endorsed, the model of universal conscription loomed large in the background of all nineteenth-century debates over military reform and political citizenship.
Millions of colonial soldiers served the empires during World Wars I and II. Until the end of the twentieth century their history and memory received little attention. This chapter shows how martial-race theory, notions of mental capacity, and pre–world war experiences impacted the deployment of colonial troops. These factors included fear of arming colonial subjects, anxieties about the apparent mental and physical incapacity of some white soldiers, and pragmatic strategic considerations. The chapter takes a comparative approach to explore how the imperial military service of colonial soldiers contributed to masculine visions of independent nationhood and citizenship following the First and Second World Wars. Visions of heroic masculine sacrifice were appropriated by emerging nations, even where war service involved discrimination and deployment as military labor. The chapter also evaluates the extent to which imperial loyalty and the hope of postwar political patronage motivated colonial troops.
This article discusses women and gender relations under communism, beginning in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, continuing through the Cold War era in Eastern Europe, and including Cuba and China today. It addresses communist gender theory, ideology, and discourse. Women’s role in politics and government is discussed. The article covers employment and education, the peasant and urban family, social policies, and socialist consumption. Under communism, the article argues, women, especially married mothers, broke through traditional resistance to women’s participation in paid, including skilled, labour. Their levels of education and employment increased dramatically in most communist states. Yet women did not attain economic equality with men in any communist society and their share of political power remained stunningly low.
Recent scholarship conceptualizes sexual violence as an inherent part of war violence, but emphasizes its varying pattern across conflicts, armed groups, and small units. However, some cases of sexual violence in war have remained invisible within both feminist and mainstream academia and politics, while others have been overexposed. This imbalance has received more attention in feminist scholarship only since the millennium. The chapter analyses the debates on sexual violence in the post–Cold War global conflicts. It argues that the wartime rapes of women in the wars in the former Yugoslavia and, to some extent, Rwanda and the sexual violence against men at the Abu Ghraib prison during the second Iraq War have stimulated major shifts in feminist theorizing of sexual violence against women and men in war. It also discusses the repercussions of the most common conceptualization of sexual violence in war and reflects the theoretical challenges of the conceptualization of sexual violence against men.
Civic court records are a rare source for medieval social experience and attitudes, including low-status people who do not appear in most records. Because the requirements for proof in Roman law included fama, reputation, and status, witnesses in court discussed and at times differed over which aspects of a person’s behavior determined their honesty and respectability. This could become an implicit debate over gender expectations. Can a concubine be considered an honest woman? The article explores a 1295 case in which a wealthy politician was charged with the rape of a woman who lived as a concubine. The case hinged on the complex medieval legal understandings of rape. It is also a vivid example of a power struggle waged in and out of the court, involving both bribery and judicial torture. Ultimately, it reveals how class and gender expectations for men and women influenced the court process.
The cult of saints in the Middle Ages is considered here through the operation of gender. Gender is shown to be have determined who was considered a saint, how holiness was pursued by individuals, described in hagiography, remembered, and approached. Early Christian communities admired heroic martyrdom in men and women, but medieval religious institutions offered men many more opportunities to develop saintly reputations: as bishops, hermits, and missionaries. With the growth of towns after the year 1100, niches developed for collective as well as individual holy lives for men and women, in households and neighborhoods; friars often appreciated and encouraged such lives, sometimes committing them to hagiography. Such writing about saints was a prolific genre, alongside the pilgrimage travelogue and miracles worked by saints at shrines. Gender, wealth and status determined the chances to encounter saints through pilgrimage, to possess hagiography, and to use material objects in devotion.
Cultures of devotion in multiple forms were central to medieval lives, and because of their significance they became sites for defining and negotiating gender identities and issues. The essay first examines whether participation in communal rituals and popular devotion was open to women as well as to men. A second issue was the availability of membership for women in the religious orders, and a third was the relationship between male religious authorities and the women who sought a life of holiness, whether in or out of traditional communities. Other topics involve the gendered role of visual images and material objects in stimulating mystical experiences, and the role of devotional texts explicitly addressed to women. Finally, the essay takes up the destabilizing of gender identities in the language of medieval spirituality. In all cases, new paradigms and scholarship of the last forty years have challenged previous assertions about religious culture.
The growing cities of late medieval northern Europe offered religiously gifted laypeople contexts in which to devote themselves fully to religion without having to leave the world or to take vows. Countless women, and a few men, lived as lay recluses and anchorites, secluded in the midst of cities; others pursued holiness in the private households of beguines, adherents of the Modern Devotion, or ascetic widows. These holy women and men were the innovative pioneers of a new lay spirituality. By studying about twenty spiritual biographies written by or about holy laywomen, this essay seeks to determine their involvement in religious culture and in the shared spirituality of the holy women (mulieres religiosae) and the faithful at large. It focuses on ascetic, devotional households; personal networks and confraternities; women's intellectual work; and the claiming, by some women, of religious authority.
This article discusses the relationship between gender history and the history of the family, especially in the field of consumer studies, and examines works that consider the rise of a ‘modern’ public sphere, structured around mass consumption and potentially more inclusive with respect to women. Reframing Jürgen Habermas's account with a gender-conscious approach and recognizing the power of the discourse in shaping historical processes, some of the studies it considers critically utilize the Habermasian assumption that commercial culture caused a radical transformation of the classic bourgeois public realm. Focusing on the contemporary debate about women shoppers and the challenge they posed to the masculine public sphere, these works explore the tensions between different ‘publics’ that were emerging in the nineteenth century within European societies and the changing ways in which domesticity and motherhood were linked to consumer culture. The article also looks at the politicization of everyday life in twentieth-century Europe.
Donna R. Gabaccia
Because the United States celebrates itself as a beacon of liberty, emancipation is one of the most common themes in the history of immigrant women and the exploitation of women, as workers or as wives, tends to be traced to the patriarchy of foreign communities or immigrant men rather than to unequal American gender relations. At least since the colonial era, opportunities for immigrant women from Europe to expand their own sense of personal autonomy and agency have surpassed opportunities for immigrant women from Asia, Latin America, Africa, or the Caribbean. Gender inequality for immigrant women is less the result of confrontations between differing immigrant and American forms of patriarchy and more the product of gendered forms of American racism.
This chapter explores transformations in European sexual mores and practices in the era of the two world wars. It pays particular attention to the contradictory dynamics of the interwar era: on the one hand, a considerable loosening of sexual customs, especially for females; on the other, an unprecedented effort on the part of national and local governments to intervene in their citizens’ private lives. The phenomenon of increased state intervention in the intimate sphere—that of relationships, bedrooms, and bodies—would be true both for those nations that turned to fascism and those that remained democratic. But no changes would be as convulsive and consequential as those wrought by the slaughter unleashed in the Second World War, as sexuality also exploded out of the familial framework—a fact that explains a great deal about the renewed turns to conservatism and domesticity which would follow in that war’s wake.
Susanne Klausen and Alison Bashford
This article analyzes the preoccupation of eugenics with fertility control—a broad term denoting all methods by which humans seek to induce, prevent, or terminate pregnancy. It also discusses the role of eugenicists in establishing birth control clinics, and to advocate for more controversial technologies of reproductive control such as sterilization and sometimes abortion. It also shows the link between feminist, eugenic, and neo-Malthusian discourses. It begins with the classic definition of eugenics and then indicates that contraceptive information would be offered to married women who are too young, ill, or weak for pregnancy, or who experienced pregnancy too frequently. This article also provides an understanding of the role played by feminism in the social acceptance of technologies of reproductive control. It concludes that eugenic feminists often connected by neo-Malthusian ideas have played a leading role in developing new reproductive technologies.