The woman question

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

"The woman question" is a phrase usually used in connection with a social change in the latter half of the nineteenth century which questioned the fundamental roles of women in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, and Russia. Issues of women's suffrage, reproductive rights, bodily autonomy, property rights, legal rights, and medical rights, and marriage, dominated cultural discussions in newspapers and intellectual circles. While many women were supportive of these changing roles, they did not agree unanimously. Often issues of marriage and sexual freedom were most divisive.


The term is first used in France: the "Querelle des femmes". From 1450 into the years that witnessed the beginning of the Reformation, the institution of marriage had fallen into question. This began a long literary quarrel.[1]

The term is used in England in the Victorian era, stimulated for example by the Reform Act 1832 and the Reform Act 1867. The Industrial Revolution brought hundreds of thousands of lower-class women into factory jobs, presenting a challenge to traditional ideas of a woman's place.[2]

A prime issue of contention was whether what was referred to as women's "private virtue" could be transported into the public arena; opponents of women's suffrage claimed that bringing women into public would dethrone them, and sully their feminine virtue.[3]

Areas of discussion[edit]

The woman question was raised in many different social areas. In religion, for instance, the United States saw extensive discussion in the second half of the nineteenth century on the participation of women in church. In the Methodist Episcopal Church, the woman question was the most pressing issue in the 1896 conference.[4]


Literature pertaining to the "woman question" includes:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Portable Rabelais, p. 370. ed. Samuel Putnam, 1964; Gisela Bock and Margarete Zimmermann, "The European Querelle des femmes." In: Medieval Forms of Argument: Disputation and Debate. Hrsg. Georgiana Donavin, Carol Poster, und Richard Utz. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2002. S. 127-56.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Parkman, Francis (January 1880). "The Woman Question Again". North American Review 130 (278): 16–31. Retrieved 2009-12-14.  p. 17.
  4. ^ Through the North American Review, writers Sarah Grand and Ouida argued over the role of women in western society. "War on the Woman Question: It Will Be the Leading One Before the Methodist Episcopal Conference" (PDF). The New York Times. 1896-05-01. Retrieved 2009-12-14.