Silences: Coping with Infertility in Nineteenth-Century Germany

  • Christina BenninghausEmail author


Experiences of infertility are hard to recover. Nineteenth-century women and men who encountered reproductive difficulties have left few traces in the historical record. Their silences are one of the reasons why historians of the family, gender, and sexuality were slow to turn their attention to unintended childlessness. But while the reticence of past actors is frustrating for the historian, it might have made sense to those concerned. This chapter explores how people talked or avoided talking about reproductive failure. It looks at moments of communication as represented in fictional texts, letters, diaries, and autobiographies. Drawing on stigma theory and historical studies on silences, it argues that reticence served a purpose, that it was a coping strategy and helped to avoid confrontations and challenging questions regarding the meaning of marriage, love, and reproduction.


Coping strategies Experiences of infertility Silence Stigma 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Historisches InstitutJustus Liebig UniversityGiessenGermany

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