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


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


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

© 2024 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.