This collection of twenty-two essays examines changes in the perceptions of women by both women themselves and by the rest of the world in the 125 years between the French Revolution and World War I, and then goes on to explore what precipitated those changes. With the nineteenth century came the modern era, and with modernism came the possibility “to posit the female as subject, woman as full-fledged individual and participant in political life and, ultimately, as a citizen.” The essays are organized under five different headings: The Political Rupture and the New Order of Discourse; The Production of Women, Real and Imaginary; The Civil Woman, Public and Private; Modernities; and Women’s Voices.
The editors have succeeded in touching on a wide variety of influences and issues affecting women during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, from France to Germany, from Catholic to Jew. The essays are well written and jargon-free to appeal to an intelligent audience, and a section of illustrations help bring the history to life. Discussions include aspects of single and married life, women’s portrayal in literature as well as women writing literature, women as workers, and women’s relationships. Although it is impossible to develop any of these ideas deeply in these essays, this book offers a wonderful overview of women during the period, allowing readers to understand a woman’s entire life situation rather than the small segments offered in other histories.