Spectre And/or Ideal: Representations of Revolutionary Women in the German Press, 1789–1794

Citation:

Koser, Julie. 2010. “Spectre and/or Ideal: Representations of Revolutionary Women in the German Press, 1789–1794.” German Life and Letters 63 (2): 105-21.

Author: Julie Koser

Abstract:

As a harbinger of the modern political era, the French Revolution altered the social and political landscape of Western Europe. One such alteration was the destabilisation of borders: the geo-political border between French and German territories was under attack as was the gendered boundary between public and private spheres of activity. This instability that threatened to undermine social order in France also endangered the gender norms within German-speaking territories. German newspapers and journals played a decisive role in shaping public opinion about the Revolution by targeting revolutionary women's presence and participation in matters of politics and war. In an attempt to defend and reinforce reactionary political ideologies and social norms against revolutionary fervour that threatened to engulf German regions, the German press mobilised diametrically-opposed representations of female participants in the public sphere: ‘violent’ armed women and ‘well-mannered’ patriotic ladies. The press depicted armed women's presence in the political realm as ‘unnatural’ and ‘dangerous’ while at the same time it privileged images of the patriotic mother and wife whose support of the political cause was depicted as ‘natural’ and ‘non-threatening’. These competing images of revolutionary women, as either spectre or ideal, served as expressions of the hopes and fears Germans felt toward the events unfolding in neighbouring France and border regions of Germany.

Topics: Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Political Participation Regions: Europe, Central Europe, Western Europe Countries: France, Germany

Year: 2010

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