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I) The First Half Of The 18 century

The married woman was considered to have neither rights nor property due to the fact that with the
marriage all her property exchanged automatically to her husband.

0The average age for marrying rested with 17 years, which was the reason that most young women could
not satisfy their positions as mothers. The only profession women could have was that of a wife and
mother . Some women had the possibility to teach children, which was not very high regarded
. Most women, however, had only the possibility to prostitute themselves which was a crucial problem of
this times .
The education of women maintained in a shadowy existence; most women received no education at all
and poor women could neither read nor write, nor cast up accounts . . So-called charity schools were
founded for boys and girls of lower social levels to teach basic knowledge like reading and writing. Higher
education was a privilege for some girls of the middle and higher social levels who were educated at
boarding-schools in subjects like English, French, Dancing, Music and Needlework. The education was
finished at the age of 15 or 16 due to the early marriage of women. After this education in school, women
were allowed to educate themselves .

II)

The

Status

Of

Women

In

18

CENTURY

The legal status of the single woman was the same as that of a man in the 18th century. The legal
position was crucially affected depending on whether she was single or married. Single women had, for
the most part, the same rights and responsibilities as did men; owning properties, making contracts,
suing, however, her gender would always make a straightforward equivalence to a man difficult. In private
law, no woman had any rights; there was no place for them, which led to an exclusion from citizenship.
The married woman was seen quite differently . It was broadly agreed that, whatever the lived reality, the
representation of marriage certainly moved towards such an ideal in the literature of the period, e.g. The
Spectator. A married woman had no separate legal identity; her existence was covered under that of her
husband. Her property passed into the control of her husband. She neither was able to enter into
contracts nor to sue or be sued. Moreover, she had no legal rights over her children and, unbelievably
nowadays, had no right to leave the house without the permission of her husband . .
Equity was, amongst others, a kind of law with particular significance. Equity made it possible for married
women to own property through trusts, set up before marriage to keep a wifes property separate from her

husbands . . The control of this separate estate passed to almost invariably male trustees rather than to
the wife herself. The motives for such a trust were complex and not always related to the woman
involved, e.g. allowing a wifes father to pass property directly to the grandchildren.
A married woman could own property but her power did not increase anyway due to severe limitations.

I) The First Half Of The 18th Century


The important essay by John Locke Essay concerning human understanding (1690) made an
exceptionally high impact in the 18th century. His rejection of Descartes innate ideas constituted the
basis for the discussion about abilities and rights of women in the 18th century. A.R. Humphreys noted:
Throughout the century a skirmish went on between conservatives who argued for the grand principle of
subordination and progressives, who, guided by the clear light of reason, contended for womans rational
and social equality.[1]
The married woman was considered to have neither rights nor property due to the fact that with the
marriage all her property exchanged automatically to her husband. The ideal of marriage in the 18th
century is described by W.L. Blease:
the ideal of marriage had been brought to its lowest possible level [] it emphasized the sexual side
of the connection, and almost entirely disregarded the spiritual. [2]
The average age for marrying rested with 17 years, which was the reason that most young women could
not satisfy their positions as mothers. The only profession women could have was that of a wife and
mother; as Blease said A respectable woman was nothing but the potential mother of children. [3].
However, there was the problem of a surplus of women. Some women had the possibility to teach
children, which was not very high regarded. Most women, however, had only the possibility to prostitute
themselves which was a crucial problem of this times (Einhoff, 1980: 35).

Terms like the fair sex, the soft sex and the gentle sex designated the relationship of the sexes; the
weak and tender woman needs to be protected by the strong man, which disguised the reality of absolute
subordination of most women. It is also remarkable that there were only a few legal divorces which can be
interpreted as a sign for the tacit sanction of adultery, the general standing of the value of marriage and
the hopelessness of a divorced woman without rights and financial resources.
The education of women maintained in a shadowy existence; most women received no education at all
and poor women could neither read nor write, nor cast up accounts (ibid: 36). So-called charity schools
were founded for boys and girls of lower social levels to teach basic knowledge like reading and writing.
Higher education was a privilege for some girls of the middle and higher social levels who were educated
at boarding-schools in subjects like English, French, Dancing, Music and Needlework. The education
was finished at the age of 15 or 16 due to the early marriage of women. After this education in school,
women were allowed to educate themselves e.g. by the library of their husbands but most did not. The
few learned ladies and their literary work mostly remained covert so that it could not be criticized or
made ridiculous (ibid: 37). A certain emancipating act can be seen in the literary work of these women
because they tried to get rid of the usual (even) mental suppression and rendered outstanding services to
female abilities on intellectual areas (ibid: 38).
Women novelists were connected by anxiety about the audience, which results from a readership being
mainly urban and anonymous created by an impersonal and diverse metropolitan literary culture. The
awareness of the need to please this readership directly informs women novelists authorial selffashioning. Women had precarious positions in this predominantly male literary culture (Prescott, 2003:
39). A specific readership allowed women novelists to circumvent the problem of addressing a wide and
unspecific audience and enabled them to disassociate themselves and their poetry from the commercial
side of literary life (ibid: 40).

II) The Status Of Women In Society


Theoretically, the legal status of the single woman was the same as that of a man in the 18th century. The
legal position was crucially affected depending on whether she was single or married. Single women had,
for the most part, the same rights and responsibilities as did men; owning properties, making contracts,
suing, however, her gender would always make a straightforward equivalence to a man difficult. In private
law, no woman had any rights; there was no place for them, which led to an exclusion from citizenship.
The married woman was seen quite differently (Skinner, 2000: 91). It was broadly agreed that, whatever
the lived reality, the representation of marriage certainly moved towards such an ideal in the literature of
the period, e.g. The Spectator. A married woman had no separate legal identity; her existence was
covered under that of her husband. Her property passed into the control of her husband. She neither
was able to enter into contracts nor to sue or be sued. Moreover, she had no legal rights over her children
and, unbelievably nowadays, had no right to leave the house without the permission of her husband. The
law therewith infantilised married women by treating them as incapable of handling their own affairs (ibid:
92).
Equity was, amongst others, a kind of law with particular significance. Equity made it possible for married
women to own property through trusts, set up before marriage to keep a wifes property separate from her
husbands (ibid: 94). The control of this separate estate passed to almost invariably male trustees rather

than to the wife herself. The motives for such a trust were complex and not always related to the woman
involved, e.g. allowing a wifes father to pass property directly to the grandchildren
A married woman could own property but her power did not increase anyway due to severe limitations.
.