From Patriarchy to Partnership: Feminism, Motherhood, and the Law in Western Europe, 1890–1914

  • Ann Taylor Allen

Abstract

If the fields of history and anthropology offered examples of strong and independent mothers, then feminists could hope that the maternal dilemma was not a permanent aspect of the female condition, but might be someday be resolved. The first step toward raising the status of mothers was to change the laws that kept them in subjection. At the turn of the twentieth century the legal status of wives and mothers was debated not only in legislatures, courtrooms, and feminist publications, but also in literary works which presented two pictures of the feminist mother-heroine, the triumphant and the tragic. In the widely read Dutch novel, Hilda van Suylenburg, published in 1898, the eponymous heroine completed her legal studies, opened a feminist law practice, married her soul mate, and happily gave birth to their daughter, Jeanne. “Oh, Maarten,” she exclaimed to her husband in the novel’s closing scene, “it is no wonder that women are crazy about these little cherubs … maybe the emancipation of woman means the awakening of women to real spiritual motherhood.” To which he dutifully replied, “Emancipation is a blessing, because it has helped to make my Hilda what she is.”’ No such happy ending was in store for Herminia Grant, the heroine of the notorious novel The Woman who Did (1895), by the British author Grant Allen. Though she wished to become a mother, Herminia refused to marry her lover, Alan. “My conscience won’t let me,” she insisted.

Keywords

Europe Income Assure Expense Defend 

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Notes

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