Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Having Her Own Smoke

This article outlines several of the most common employment opportunities available to singlewomen in Germany from 1400-1750. For this reason, I've placed this article in "Categories of Difference". Wiesner analyzes, specifically, Germany in a comparatively short span of time - these demographics anywhere else at any other time could very well have yielded completely different results.
In addition, Wiesner discusses the lifestyle differences between the employment opportunities. She describes the characteristics of singlewomen who were domestic servants, wage laborers, and those who participated in craft production and sales. While each of these lifestyles resulted in different freedoms and certain restraints for singlewomen, they were all held suspect in terms of their motivations for being single working women. Working women were subject to the stigma of being associated with lewdness and, in some cases, prostitution.

~Melissa Johnson


  1. The point of Wiesner's that stood out to me most in this reading was her underscoring in the conclusion how often we forget that women in the past still had fun, good times, liked to PAR-TAAAY, etc. She underscores this by citing how "Maids stole beer to drink with their friends, gathered at wells to discuss religion, or used their small earnings to buy jewelry and lace or play city lotteries..." (209).

  2. I would also put this under "Employment and Work" because it did break down what was and was not appropriate for women in the Germanic lands to do, whether single or not. You can also make an argument for "Law, Education and Citizenship" because these single women were almost outcasts, with no real right of citizenship in some respects. And they certainly didn't have the law on their side.

  3. One of the central problems in political philosophy is how to encourage social ideals without stigmatizing those who do not fit the ideal. In regards to our own culture's emphasis on family life, how do we react to those outside of the ideal we see in Gordon and Marjorie Hinckley? After all, not everyone even has the opportunity for marriage, and others live lives in extremely adverse circumstances.

    I think it's a pity that single, working women (many of whom faced considerable social restraints I'm sure) so often viewed with suspicion during this time in Germany. Even today we target certain groups as less-virtuous or undesirable for society, but we should only do so symbolically, not on a personal level. The trick is finding ways to balance judgment with the proper encouragement of potential for good.