The Woman Question
The condition of the woman has always been characterized by a situation of inferiority on social, juridical and political plain.
The term “woman question” was used in England in the Victorian era, during the 17th and 19th century in coincidence to the ideological and social change of the European society. The “woman question” was one of the major changes.
As we know, the philosophy of the Enlightenment stated that all human being, women included, were equal and with the same rights.
Although many women started to work with men in workshops, factories and at home also, they were subject to discrimination. And we have to remember that woman in higher classes enjoyed less freedom because of the rigid code of sexual and social behaviour imposed by the Victorian standards.
Also the Napoleonic civil code sanctioned woman's legal inferiority respect to man. So during the Victorian age women's meetings and demonstrations started to be common. In this way, at about mid-century things began to change: some women gained access hardly to colleges and professions. The most famous was Florence Nightingale who became a legend for her work in hospitals. All that represented a decisive step of the feminist movement.
An influential voice of support for women came from John Stuart Mill, who spoke in favour of female emancipation, we can remember one of his works “the subjection of women”.
Step by step...
- the first colleges for women born (Queen's College and Bedford College);
- with the “married women's property act” the women own property after the marriage (before all their property went to their husband);
- women could study;
- they could take on jobs formerly reserved for men (not just as governesses or teachers, but also as nurses, doctors and journalists).
On the social side women were also very active. In 1840 the first petition for women's suffrage was asked to the Parliament, but women didn't get the right to vote until 1918.
The women have fought for sustaining changes in the field of the right, from the vote to the divorce and the laws in subject of sexual violence. Despite this, even in the western world a real parity has been reached among the sexes. The violence on the women is a sore which still stands today in the western countries.