Continental Women’s Agency

Western Women’s Agency is a collection of essays that explore the complex ways that women and young girls construct all their lives across Europe. It employs a range of methodological solutions and new archival material to investigate the interplay between gender, society and the ways that girls manage their daily experiences. The chapters in this volume look at women’s encounters from various cultural, societal and financial perspectives: as mothers and wives; as philanthropists; as writers and artists; and as activists. Despite the vastly different source materials, some key themes unite the contributions as a whole. One is the centrality of a notion of female agency. The authors employ micro-studies of individual cases to reveal how women, despite their legal disabilities because of their gender, could assert considerable agency in the pursuit of their interests.

The articles in this volume emphasize the significance of taking female into account when describing the first integration processes in Europe. Maria Pia Di Nonno, for instance, looks at how the girls in Malta’s Common Assembly and the forerunner of the European Parliament deliberately influenced the inclusion of Europe. In Bernard Capp’s paragraph on Agnes Beaumont, the subject herself wrote a word to demonstrate how disobeying her father was an act of independent organization.

A final commitment discusses how condition communist children’s organizations in Eastern Europe served as both brokers on behalf of women and also prevented their organization. A closer examination of the buildings and political contexts in which these official organizations operated reveals a more nuanced picture, and the artist challenges revisionist feminist scientists’ assertions that they were “agents on behalf of people.”

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