- Editors' Note
It is with great pleasure that we introduce our second issue of the Journal of Women's History. As we write this brief introduction, Women's History month is just underway in the United States and, as with many of you, we find our days filled with lectures, films, reading groups, community events, and travel. But this year, women's history will also have an opportunity to shine in June—about the time this issue reaches your mailboxes—as many of us converge on Scripps College in Claremont, California to attend the Thirteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women. Organized around the theme "Sin Fronteras: Women's Histories, Global Conversations," the conference will foreground two themes that have been absolutely critical to the journal's mission over the past five years and remain integral to our own vision of the future—the historical constitution of the gendered subject and the gendering of transnational and international histories. In the meantime, we are delighted to feature, in this issue, six articles that explore the histories of women's subjectivities in a variety of national and imperial contexts.
In our first section, "Subject Positions," three authors explore the constitution of women's gendered subjectivity—through writing and through remembering. In all three pieces, the focus is on very young women. Dena Goodman's "Letter Writing and the Emergence of Gendered Subjectivity in Eighteenth-Century France" examines the correspondence of two young Parisienne women in order to explore the origins and construction of a modern gendered subjectivity and to get at questions of intimacy, the private, and women's agency. Through a close, contextualized reading of the letters of Geneviève de Malboissière (to her friend Adélaïde) and of Manon Phlipon (to her friend Sophie), Goodman takes on Habermas's arguments regarding letter writing and the constitution of the individual subject (arguments that subsume gender within class) and demonstrates the absolute centrality of gender and of elite women's letter writing to the constitution of the modern subject.
In "The Many Guises of Xiaoluan: The Legacy of a Girl Poet in Late Imperial China," Anne Gerritsen also focuses on a young woman writer—one whose poetry was written in circumstances strikingly similar to those of Geneviève and Manon a century and a half before. Yet Gerritsen takes our investigation of subject positions in a different direction by focusing not on the content of Xiaoluan's poems, but on how Xiaoluan's subjectivity is imagined and reimagined over nearly four centuries, as Chinese literati and scholars, beginning with her own father, memorialize Xiaoluan's [End Page 6] life and writings. Through a fascinating exploration of literary collections assembled over the centuries, Gerritsen is able to show how Xiaoluan, as subject, became fictionalized, how the very facts of her life—a young girl, on the cusp of her sexual awakening, but pure in thought and deed, dies tragically as her marriage is being planned—became the clay with which male scholars over the course of four centuries molded a succession of images of the ideal woman.
Writing against a German "collective national memory" of the Nazi era that tended to focus on Hitler and the Gestapo and thereby absolve individuals of complicity and guilt, Michelle Mouton, in "Sports, Song, and Socialization: Women's Memories of Youthful Activity and Political Indoctrination in the BDM," examines the subject position of German girls who joined the National Socialists' Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM) beginning in 1933. Based upon a broad range of archival sources and life histories of women who joined the BDM as young girls, Mouton uncovers a complicated, contradictory, and shifting set of memories that foreground song and sport, comradeship, and leadership opportunities rather than the Nazis' political message regarding women's central roles as mothers of the race and preservers of German culture.
The issue's second set of articles takes up the task of "Gendering Nation and Empire." Susan Zimmermann's "The Challenge of Multinational Empire for the International Women's Movement: The Habsburg Monarchy and the Development of Feminist Inter/National Politics," offers a transnational perspective on the international women's movement...