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Rousseau’s Daughters
Domesticity, Education, and Autonomy in Modern France
Jennifer J. Popiel

Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth-Century Studies

New Hampshire
2008 • 284 pp. 16 illus. 6 x 9"
British & European History / Education / Philosophy

$35.00 Hardcover, 978-1-58465-732-3

“Popiel's book is a provocative work that brings a fresh perspective on domesticity's implications for women. Highly Recommended.”Choice

Provocative assessment of how new ideas about motherhood and domesticity in pre-Revolutionary France helped women demand social and political equality later on

In this lively interdisciplinary blend of history, education, and material culture, Jennifer J. Popiel examines ideological and cultural shifts in French child rearing and maternity from pre-Revolutionary France to 1833. She shows how ideals promoted in Rousseau’s educational treatise Emile (1762) anchored women more firmly in private life by emphasizing their critical role in their children’s early education and development. Emile marked the beginning of a widespread shift toward domestic nurturing, with an emphasis on self-control, autonomy, and gender difference. This “domestic revolution” not only drove new genres of literature, clothing styles, and toys, but as Popiel persuasively argues, it also set the stage for greater civic participation of women
and children.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Because the political importance of the domestic sphere has been so under-appreciated by scholars, casting Rousseau as her principal actor makes sense. In so doing, Popiel powerfully reorients our debates about mothers and children, politics and domesticity, to offer a vision of modernity that, although tempered, is nonetheless hopeful.”American Historical Review

“Popiel has written an impressive, important book. She offers a fascinating and provocative analysis of Rousseau’s influence on educational thought and practice and on women’s understanding of these new domestic roles. She further demonstrates that scholars must consider the role of child rearing and domestic education in the broader history of education. This book is essential for scholars working on the history of Enlightenment education, gender studies, and modern French culture.”Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“There is much to admire about this study. Popiel's fresh examination of Rousseau demonstrates what so many women found appealing in the writings of a philosopher many feminists consider problematic at best . . .. The range and richness of the sources Popiel consults and her sensitive examination of them is the work of a seasoned historian.” Journal of Modern History

Rousseau's Daughters contributes to understanding the complex relations among women, the home, and public life in the modern era . . . Popiel introduces a transatlantic perspective to the view that women performed a variety of civic functions, even when they were not the political equals of men.”Journal of Social History

“In this carefully crafted study, Popiel undertakes to reevaluate Rousseau’s oeuvre and its paradoxical influence up to the present day, emphasizing what she views as his positive contribution to women’s lives and to the larger society.”Eighteenth-Century Life

“In this beautifully written and deeply researched book, Jennifer Popiel overturns much of the conventional wisdom about women, the family, and education in the pivotal period, 1760–1830. The new insights leap out from every page and together they add up to nothing less than a fundamental revision of the history of the modern self.”—Lynn Hunt, Eugen Weber Professor of Modern European History, University of California, Los Angeles

Rousseau’s Daughters closely follows the influence of Rousseau’s masterpiece on education, Emile, upon the generation who experienced the French Revolution. Popiel’s sympathetic, personal, and readable account demonstrates to us how women, in particular, could find such solace in a vision of education and domesticity that appears heavily sexist to us today. Popiel’s imaginative revisionist account is more than simply a cultural history of post-Enlightenment France. By the end of her study, it is clear that Popiel is proposing a kind of Rousseauian critique of her own regarding contemporary feminism’s general dismissal of domesticity as contributing to a “separate spheres” ideology. In her conclusion, Popiel forcefully urges feminists to reclaim domestic child rearing as part of the larger project of educating modern citizens.”—Gary Kates, Professor of History, Pomona College

“Rousseau's Daughters, a sophisticated and engagingly written analysis of motherhood and childrearing in France from 1760 to 1830, offers a new perspective on the importance of affectionate, nurturing mothers in the creation of independent, virtuous, self-controlled individuals who participated in civic life during the early nineteenth century. Popiel meticulously studied what the mothers read, in particular a plethora of advice manuals, literature for children, and Rousseau's Emile, to create a fascinating picture of the material culture of early childhood, paying keen attention to gender differences. Popiel argues that the veneration of motherhood empowered women; it gave them control in the domestic realm and made them the guarantors of the future society. Rousseau's Daughters successfully integrates Rousseau's ideas on motherhood and childrearing into the larger picture of the formation of civic life. Thus, it makes a significant contribution not only to the vital areas women's and family history, but also to the cultural history of the nineteenth century.”—Rachel G. Fuchs, Foundation Professor, Department of History, Arizona State University

JENNIFER J POPIEL is assistant professor in the Department of History, Saint Louis University, Missouri.

Fri, 1 Sep 2017 16:18:42 -0500