Fruar och mamseller. Kvinnor inom sydsvensk borgerlighet 1790-1870

Detta är en avhandling från Historiska Media, Lund

Sammanfattning: This dissertation is an analysis of the culture and lifestyle of women in the middle classes in small towns in southern Sweden between 1790 and 1870, from a gender perspective. The study builds on local material from Lund, Karlshamn and Kristianstad, and is principally made up of the private letters and diaries of a large number of people. The thesis attempts to shed light on relationships, values and reading habits in this stratum of society, and it also deals with the construction of gender. It is demonstrated that one can see a clear connection between the lifestyle of women in these small towns and the markedly agrarian pattern that characterises life in Sweden at this time. Because of the married woman's significant role in home production, she had power to some extent. In a large household that practised a high degree of self-sufficiency, co-operation between spouses was vital. Despite these circumstances, the relationship between husband and wife cannot be characterised as equal. It was the husband who was legally competent, representing the household to the outside world. One approach of the study is to focus on the unmarried women and the widows. Out in society unmarried women had a lower status than married ones. In practice, they carried important tasks such as nursing and care, housework and teaching, often within the household of their parents or siblings. It appears, that the woman's lack of legal rights posed a considerable problem when it came to safeguarding her own property. The various courses of lifestyle for the unmarried women strengthen the picture of contemporary society as built around a patriarchal norm, but at the same time layered by civil status, age and wealth. The final chapter examines what people in the middle classes were reading during this period, and above all, how they read it. It appears that reading out loud was the most natural way of reading, which ties in with various factors as the norm of household devotions, the lack of good lighting during the dark months and the limited selection of books.

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