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New Developments in German Women's History Ute Frevert. Women in German History: From Bourgeois Emancipation to Sexual Liberation. Stuart McKinnon-Evans, trans., with Terry Bond and Barbara Norden. Oxford: Berg, 1988 (distributed in the U.S. and Canada by St. Martin's Press). 346 pp. ISBN 0-85496-233-6 (cl); 0-85496-685-4 (pb); $49.50 (cl); $14.50 (pb). Ann Taylor Allen. Feminism and Motherhood in Germany, 1800-1914. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991.299 pp. ISBN 0-8135-16862 (cl); $42.00. Marion A. Kaplan. The Making of the Jewish Middle Class: Women, Family, and Identity in Imperial Germany. Studies in Jewish History. Jehuda Reinharz, series ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. xvi +351 pp.; ill. ISBN 0-19-503952-1 (cl); $39.95. Dagmar Herzog These three books each tackle a different aspect of German women's history, a field whose development has lagged somewhat behind that of other countries, especially the United States. Ute Frevert's Women in German History is a textbook which reconstructs.German women's fives from the eighteenth century to the present, based on primary research and on the secondary material available to her before 1986 when the German version of her book appeared. Ann Taylor Allen's Feminism and Motherhood in Germany simultaneously provides a revisionist interpretation of the bourgeois women's movement in Germany from 1800 to 1914 and a provocative contribution to ongoing debates among feminist scholars over the tensions between "equality" and "difference" as strategies for advancing women's rights. Finally, Marion Kaplan's The Making of the Jewish Middle Class integrates German, Jewish, and gender history in order to demonstrate innovatively the central role that Jewish women played in both the process of bourgeois class consohdation and the development of a modern Jewish ethnic identity. Frevert was one of the first German historians to bridge successfully the gap between the (profoundly antifeminist) German academy and activist feminism, and her ambitious and impressive textbook—whose caustically humorous tone is well served by the excellent translation— bears the traces of that complex negotiation. Her inquiry into these last 200 years begins by raising the problem of "the costs and limits of social 'modernization' . . . the pros and cons of industrialization and urbanization" (p. 1). Concentrating on women's changing experiences © 1993 Journal of Women's History, Vol. 4 No. 3 (Winter)__________ 1993 Book Reviews: Dagmar Herzog 181 with sex, family, politics, and especially with work, the book seeks to identify the paradoxical mix of progress and regress that characterized women's fives in each of these realms. Frevert also openly aims to contribute to present-day debates about how and why women still have not achieved equality with men despite marked improvement in such areas as legal status and employment opportunities; she argues that true equality would mean not only equal access to all resources but also "an end to the gender-specific ascription of spheres of action" (p. 4). I suspect that it is Freverf s concern to communicate persuasively with those social historians who doubt the value of scholarship on gender that lies at the root of her struggle to fit her feminist analysis into the conceptual frame of concern about the costs and benefits of "modernization". The at times uneasy coexistence of these two interpretive frames helps, I think, to explain both the book's weaknesses and its considerable strengths. An especially interesting aspect of Freverf s text, for instance, is her recurrent effort to rethink such classic categories of social history as "work" and "class." While Frevert marshals ample statistics indicating how persistently a significant proportion of women actually did work for wages— thus refuting the assumptions of those who would exclude women from the purview of labor history, she couples this point with a larger one: that any adequate definition of work must include the unwaged labor historically performed by women within the home. This insistence on redefining the very essence of what constitutes work, along with her reflections on the double burden of women's wage work and housework and her analyses of the continual reinscription of the sexual division of labor as industrialization progressed, are among the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 180-189
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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