Women’s Discourse on Gender Roles in Nineteenth-Century Germany
This book discusses issues of female gender role formation and examines the ways in which women’s writing and activism contributed to the process. As a result, a rich tapestry of female social discourse is uncovered, exhibiting women’s strong commitment to shaping their destinies within a largely misogynistic political and legal national framework.
Chapter 5 “The irresistible sword of female dignity and strength”: Maternal Politics 135
Chapter 5 “The irresistible sword of female dignity and strength”: Maternal Politics Following the harrowing experience of the Napoleonic Wars, the German states yearned for a change from the consequences of what was perceived as belligerent, masculine culture. In Switzerland and Germany, this led, among other things, to a complete rethinking of the pedagogy of early childhood, a development which to this day shapes the way children are taught throughout the Western world. The major aspects of this reform were a changed understanding of the child and the ideological elevation of the mother as being the most suitable for raising and educating young children. The maternal values of nurturing and kindness were revolution- ary concepts which educators such as Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel advocated as antidotes to the damage wrought by the recent years of warfare. Soon after Pestalozzi and Fröbel began their public work, their theories regarding maternal values were taken up by female educators and activists and developed into a platform for women’s public inf luence. Early feminist activists like Louise Otto-Peters insisted that women needed to be educated as much for providing intellectual stimulation to their children as for being equal companions to their husbands; both aspects were seen as necessary for the maintenance of stable families (Weedon 96). As such, the discourse on women’s maternal role began to permeate not only pedagogical writings, but also political essays and fiction. The new theory of children’s learning and women’s role in it...
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