The feminine public sphere

Megan Smitley

in The Feminine Public Sphere

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780719079665
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781703069 | DOI:
The feminine public sphere

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This chapter provides a brief overview of feminine public sphere by qualitative and quantitative evidence indicating that religious conviction and middle-class networks dominated the culture of Scotland's well-to-do public women. Christian faith appears as a key factor in middle-class women's determination to pursue a public life, while religious networks provided material and spiritual support for women's public work. The feminine public sphere represents more than an arena for middle-class women's reforming activities, and it is best understood as a site of middle-class women's contribution to middle-class identity. In addition, civic participation was a hallmark of middle-class culture in the 1870 to 1914 period. Affluent men enjoyed access to a range of formalised power structures at the local and national levels, and while women's route into civic life was largely through the informal power structures of their reforming organisations, their contributions to a middle-class culture of civic participation should be considered no less significant. Female associational life may have paralleled the structure and tenor of men's organisations, yet middle-class women's internalisation of supposed feminine moral superiority encouraged a desire to feminise middle-class public life. Thus, by contravening idealised notions of a sequestered femininity, middle-class public women sought to remould society in their own righteous image.

Keywords: feminine public sphere; internalisation; righteous image; Christian faith

Chapter.  8445 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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