UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Möglichkeiten Frau zu sein : Weiblichkeitsentwürfe im 19. Jahrhundert bei Louise Aston, Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer und Louise von François Mutter, Gisela


The nineteenth century in Germany posed a repressive environment for-women as they were defined as inferior to men and forced into the subservient roles of housewives and mothers. This thesis examines the portrayal of femininity in three contemporary writers of the period, Louise Aston, Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer and Louise von Francois. The first chapter endeavors to situate the writers in their social environment. It examines the mechanics that supported the patriarchal system, such as socializing women through education and categorizing them as inferior to justify and support their traditional roles. Chapters two, three, and four respectively deal with each author, presenting an introduction to their particular conditions and a brief summary of their lives. Following this, the individual tests are analyzed for their portrayal of femininity. These writers' visions of femininity differ greatly. Aston, whose career spanned the revolution of 1848, openly promotes liberal-humanist ideas and advocates the emancipation of women. Her heroines bear male an female traits and rise to positions of power and leadership. Birch-Pfeiffer's women are strong and independent. She frequently reverses the traditional gender roles. However, she upholds the moral code of her time, including the idea of the woman as exemplar of chastity and virtue . Francois idealizes the traditional role of women. However, she elevates that role by extolling motherhood and marital fidelity as supreme virtues. Despite these differences, there are similarities. All three writers offer an alternative picture of femininity despite this adherence, to a greater or lesser degree, to the traditional values of their time. In addition, they all criticize the patriarchal structures of society, revealing their discontent more or less openly. Finally, their portrayal of femininity was in each case based on their particular circumstances of the individual writers lives. Aston exploited the revolutionary times to present a strong claim for female emancipation; Birch- Pfeiffer, in need o f money, adapted strongly to the taste of her audience, finding in turn, interested recipients for her ideas; and Francois, a very private and proud person, chose to upgrade the women's role within the tradition, in attempt to avoid public attention. Within their circumstances, each one of the authors presented the best possible version of femininity as an alternative to traditional values.

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