Women in the Cultural Sphere

  • Wendy Gibson


Taking a positive part in the intellectual life of the nation was a challenge which women were ostensibly as ill-equipped to meet as they had been to secure recognition of their potential for significant political and civic action. Placed at a serious disadvantage by their exclusion from institutions dispensing secondary and higher education, they were additionally handicapped by the risk of being mocked whenever they showed an impulse to improve their mind or to commit themselves in print. Official reunions of the French intelligentsia were in the main sympathetic to the policy adopted by the Académie Française on its foundation in 1635 of limiting its forty Immortals to members of the male sex. Nothing daunted by bans and prejudices, women used their ingenuity, as always, to find means of getting round them. They opened up relations with the art world by employing all kinds of masters to create at their bidding. They took pains to make of their homes inviting rendezvous where men of learning were glad to forgather with colleagues and social superiors, away from the regimented atmosphere of the academies. They capitalised on their reputation for possessing greater refinement than the opposite sex to set themselves up as judges of literary works which authors hastened to submit to them out of deference and gratitude. They also ventured to publish on their own behalf, using stratagems to ensure that the dictates of modesty were not violated.


Seventeenth Century Enterprising Woman Cultural Sphere Royal Family Literary Creation 
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Copyright information

© Wendy Gibson 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wendy Gibson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ReadingUK

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