Heather Pitts



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Looking at German girls and women in the eighteenth and even the nineteenth century, we see that most of them received very little formal education. Reading and writing and a basic, broad education were typical. In the higher social classes, girls learned conversational French, social dancing, and enough piano and voice to accompany or sing at parties. Young women were trained to become wives and mothers. For the lower-to middle-class women this meant learning household management and the raising of children, although lower-class women did it all themselves, whereas middle-class women delegated some of the work to servants and oversaw the general going-on in the household. Upper-class women left the house and children to the servants; they were mainly to learn how to entertain. Of course, there were always people with progressive ideas about women's education and about what it means to be educated and why it is important. These people (gradually) changed public opinion about what is acceptable learning for women and made possible my education, this course on women's literature, and this paper. I would like to investigate three reasons why women deserve a good education, drawing examples from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literary works by German women.


This work is part of the Sophie Digital Library, an open-access, full-text-searchable source of literature written by German-speaking women from medieval times through the early 20th century. The collection, covers a broad spectrum of genres and is designed to showcase literary works that have been neglected for too long. These works are made available both in facsimiles of their original format, wherever possible, as well as in a PDF transcription that promotes ease of reading and is amenable to keyword searching.

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German Literature

The Education of Women: Ideas and Vignettes