New articles on the EHNE Encyclopedia
Woman readers and women’s reading in Europe by Isabelle Matamoros
In Christian Europe, learning to read and having access to books was for a long time reserved for a small elite that was majority male. With the rise of literacy in most European countries at the beginning of modern times, the readership became feminized. Reading, a tool of knowledge, represented a first step toward emancipation for many women. However, during the nineteenth century, reading practices reveal numerous gender inequalities: the reading of women, whose morals had to be preserved, was particularly monitored. It took until the turn of the twentieth century, women’s access to higher learning, and the appearance of mass culture for mentalities to evolve. Today, the relation to books has been completely reversed, as the world of books is generally considered as feminine, with women reading the most in Europe.
Female allegories of the nation by Ursula E. Koch
The first female national allegories date back to Antiquity, and were either images of the self (Roma) or of the other (Hispania, Gallia, Germania, etc.). Other effigies emerged between the sixteenth and the late eighteenth century, such as the personification of the French Republic, Marianne. However, it was the “long” nineteenth century (1789-1914) that proved the golden age for these multivalent figures (monuments, busts, coins, stamps, caricatures), which multiplied during this period. Recognizable by their attributes, they were closely linked, for better or for worse, to the political history of symbolically represented countries. Their current presence (considerable in France and almost non-existent in Germany) varies depending on the European country.
Women and the professions: a very long road by Sylvie Schweitzer
It took two centuries for women to gain access to all of the professions occupied by men. European feminists had to fight for access not only to higher education but to many professions as well. The first positions open to women at the end of the 19th century were either to be a teacher in single-sex secondary schools or the self-employed, liberal professions such as medicine or law. In the course of the 20th century other doors gradually began to open and finally women also gained access to the last male bastions such as the military and the police, thus at last becoming full-fledged citizens. This long struggle shows that co-education does not lead to gender equality, and, a fortiori, parity.