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The Role of Women in the Late 19th Century in Norway

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Shoshana Leventhal

on 25 February 2013

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Transcript of The Role of Women in the Late 19th Century in Norway

The Role of Women in Norway (in the late 1800's) Before the Late 1800's.... -women were not considered to be worth nearly as much as men -a woman's role in society was generally to be a "house wife" meaning she was expected by society to take care of her family and husband before herself. -women could not vote -women could not file for divorce or take out loans (without their husband or father's permission) 1840's: First Wave of Feminism -In 1850, women status was considered as incapable, that is to say, that it was impossible to enter into any agreement, debts, or even control their own money. They were not entitled to any training, or able to be considered for any government job. As for single women, of which there were many during the era, they could request to be placed into employment under the authority of a guardian. On their wedding day, married women transitioned from living under the authority of their fathers to under that of their husbands. -In this first part of the century, women worked in the early textile mills (1840) and in the tobacco factories which were reserved for their employment. They also worked in the food industries and jobs requiring "little hands", but they did not work in heavy industry. -The literature marketed to women of the time was still a reflection of society's value system: only the quest for a husband was to be found in these novels. Among the women writers published in Norway during the era were Hanna Winsnes, Marie Wexelsen and Anna Magdalene Thoresen. 1854 to 1879: Awakening Consciousness -During this period, new laws were passed, and although they did not at once revolutionize the status of women, but barriers were being crossed regularly and rapidly. Formal equality of women with men became almost complete in the space of just two generations -women attained the age of majority at 25 years, as well as men. As for widows, divorced and separated, they become major "regardless of age." In 1869, the age of majority was reduced to 21, although not without some wondering whether it was defensible for women. -In 1866, a law was passed establishing free enterprise - except for married women - so that anyone could obtain a license in their city. -But it is mainly through literature that women expressed themselves. Camilla Collett in particular is the first writer who went outside the bounds which had been established for women's literature up until that time, and whose most famous novel, The Daughters of the Prefect (1855), deals with the education of bourgeois women in the 19th century. The central theme of this novel is the conflict between the standard conventions of society and the feelings and needs of the individual. The First Wave of Feminism Continued (1879-1890) -The writers who took up the case for women would claim Camilla Collett as their inspiration, and thus re-created the first wave of feminism in Norway. -In 1871, Georg Brandes initiated the movement of The Modern Breakthrough: he asked that literature serve progress and not reactionary views. It was then that Norway had the writers who became known as the "Big Four", namely Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Alexander Kielland and Jonas Lie. All would speak for the cause of women. -Camilla Collett and Aasta Hansteen wrote to defend the cause of feminist theories that were an integral parity of a larger program for the authors of the Modern Breakthrough. For the latter, it will be to defend the oppressed people against the social expectations of the time, of which the wife was one: women who received a primary education whose sole purpose was marriage, women who were unable to continue to fully enjoy intellectual lives, who could not freely dispose of their own life and body. -This is especially through two plays,The Pillars of Society (1877) and A Doll's House (1879), where Ibsen took up the cause of women. The latter play in particular had a significant influence on the feminist movement even outside Norway, as it was translated into several languages and performed widely across Europe and beyond. The Debate on Double Standards -During the 19th century, Norway was a very poor country, which led to a rural exodus and high levels of emigration. In 1882, Norway had 30,000 departures from a population of 1.9 million inhabitants. However, the number of emigrants is higher than 27% of Females in 1900; by that year, there were 165 men to every 100 women. The consequence was the disintegration of the family unit, resulting in the increase in births outside marriage and an overwhelming increase in prostitution. -The explosion of prostitution and the proliferation of brothels cause strong reactions, which focussed public attention on the problem of sexual morality. The Christians of Bergen are the first to lead the offense in 1879. In 1881 the Association Against Public Immorality was founded. Advances in Everyday Life -In 1884, the Norwegian Association for Women's Rights was created, the first formal women's rights organization in Norway -In 1890, the first women workers' union was established, then in 1896, that of the Norwegian Women's Health Organisation and the National Council of Women. -Two significant laws were passed in 1888. By the first law, married women gained majority status. The second law ended the authority of the husband over the wife. The man retained control of the home of the couple, but the woman could now freely dispose of the fruit of his work. -It was in 1910 that universal suffrage is adopted for all municipal elections and in 1913 for national elections. More on "A Doll's House" -Do you see any reflections of society's view on women (in the late 19th century) in A Doll's House? -How would you feel if you were a woman in Norway in the late 19th century and you read "A Doll's House"? -Do you think plays like "A Doll's House" really had an impact on the feminist movement as a whole?
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