Woman as Force in History Critical Essays

Mary Ritter


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Throughout Woman as Force in History, Mary Beard seems to project the idea that if women had always been the victims of a masculine plot to hold them in a slavery of subjection, they would not have exerted the force in history that she believes they have. Although she sympathizes with the intent of the Declaration of Sentiments adopted at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, Beard does not fully accept its unqualified assertion that the masculine goal throughout history had been to maintain absolute tyranny over women. After rejecting the idea of a forced subjection, Beard proceeds to trace how the idea developed and how it was perceived by women in the nineteenth century such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The author then discusses how the concept of equality was developed and advocated as a cure for the perceived subjection.

Beard begins her work by describing the relationship between men and women as one of the most visible revolutionary movements of modern times. The book is better understood and much more significant when one considers that it was written with the shadows of such men as Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin looming in the background. Beard discusses the influence of women on the momentous events of that time.

The author first covers the force exerted on Russia by Nadejda Krupskaya, the wife of Vladimir Lenin, whose marriage to Lenin created a revolutionary partnership. Krupskaya is credited with being the driving force to include women’s rights as a vital part of the Bolshevik agenda in 1917. The idealistic nature of Marxist communism made it impossible for Lenin to ignore that force, which Beard credits with much of the success of the Bolshevik revolution. Beard continues by describing the same impact of women on the success of Fascism in Italy under Mussolini, in Germany under Hitler, and in Spain under Francisco Franco. Beard specifically reveals how Hitler used the concept of women’s rights to persuade women to support the Nazi Party, and how that support led to his initial success. The author then reveals how Hitler used the blind support of women to produce the army of soldiers that...

(The entire section is 881 words.)