Women in The 18th Century - With an Illustration on Richardson, Defoe and Jane Austen

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Introduction 5
Chapter I - The Woman's Evolution from the Middle Ages to the Classical Period (18-century) 10
1. Defining terms and concepts 10
2. The medical understanding of woman's body 11
2.1. Sex and gender 11
2.2. Menstruation 14
2.3. Parturition 16
2.4. Changes and continuities 17
3. Religious teaching 18
4. The law and its administration 20
4.1. Marital status 20
4.2. Marriage, separation, child custody 21
4.3. Crimes by and against women 22
5. Stereotypes 23
5.1. Maid, wife and widow 23
5.2. The scold, the whore and the witch 25
6. Adult life 26
6.1. Marriage 26
6.2. Maternity 28 
6.3. Single women 31
7. Female friendship 32
8. Female consciousness and feminism 35
Chapter II - Women in the century of the Enlightenment 37
1. The concept of the Enlightenment 37
2. Aristocracy in the 18th century 39
3. Woman as "the other" for men in the 18th century 41
3.1. Brief critical view 41 
3.2. Men's glance 45
3.2.1. The feminine nature 45
3.2.2. The woman's reason 46
3.2.3. The role of women 46
3.3. Married women 47
3.3.1. Marriage in contradiction 48
3.3.2. The Enlightenment couple 49
3.3.3. The folk couple 49
3.4. The women at work 50
3.4.1. Workers 50
3.4.2. Women with unequal status 51
3.5. Education of the Enlightenment's daughters 51
3.6. The women of culture 52
3.6.1. Reading 52
3.6.2. Writing 53
3.7. Prostitution 54
Chapter III - Moll Flanders - the woman's identity derived from the fight for life 57
Chapter IV - Pamela: the woman hero as a refusal of the objective "realities" of social rank and the symbol of virtue 70
Chapter V - Jane Austen's Emma: Independence vs Marriage 88
Conclusions 100
References 103

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Women in the 18th century - the title sounds very alluring, but is it relevant nowadays? Why would be people interested in such a theme? 
Before arguing the importance of it, I would like to specify that my diploma paper is going to be one of compilation, i.e. the description of the critical vision which I found connected to my subject.
What was women's experience of life and the world in the 18-th century in England? Historians believed they knew a great deal about men's lives. But their knowledge of ordinary women, of the majority of the female population, was relatively limited. 
While the 1970's had seen great strides in studies of medieval and 19th century English women, research into the intervening centuries seemed to lay behind, leaving the 16th and 17th centuries as the neglected Dark Ages of women's history.
There were all the myriad circumstances in which individual women might find themselves, variables of age, social rank, matrimonial, familial and sexual status and geographical locale. It is necessary to add personal and contingent factors, such as the doctrinal convictions which united or separated women along religious and political lines.
Social historians had identified the elements of "popular culture" for the male half of the population. Did ordinary women have a culture of their own, or were they more onlookers or passive sharers in male popular culture?
Why was women's experience of marriage so similar across the class spectrum, when it had been predicted that structural factors related to social and economic rank would play more a role in creating disparate patterns? An obsession with the control of female sexuality, with women's dependent and submissive self-presentation as the outward sign of sexual subjection, also seemed to crop up in what is regarded as alien contexts.
My diploma paper contains five chapters. The first chapter is about woman's social image from the Middle Ages to the Classical period. In consists of 5 subchapters. The first one: Defining terms and concepts works as an introduction to the chapter. The second one: -the Religious Teachings -; the third subchapter is about law connected with marital status, marriage, separation and child custody and also crimes made by and against women. Man and wife was one person according to the law, and that person was the husband. A wife could make no legal contract, except concerning her clothing and food, but her husband could sell her clothes. There was no legal way to end a marriage apart from a separation, which did not allow either party to remarry.
Witchcraft was largely understood as a woman's crime. As about the crimes against women, the most serious was rape. The fourth subchapter is about the women's stereotypes. Virginity was prized in young women, but after a woman passed the usual age of marriage she was an object of suspicion. The term "old maid" was not very positive and desired by women. The wife had two stereotypes: the archetype of the good woman, which had an ideal state for marriage, motherhood and governance of a husband; and the negative stereotype of the wife, ever gossiping, her morals being loose. The other three women stereotypes challenged patriarchal control. Each of them built on specific fears: the scold, of the power of women's tongues, the whore, of unbridled sexuality; the witch, a mirror reversal of all that the patriarchy deemed good in a woman. 
The fifth subchapter describes the woman's adult life: marriage, maternity or the life of single women. Wedlock marked a significant transition for women: the metamorphosis from "maid" to "wife" transformed every aspect of their existence. Some women found in marriage their greatest happiness; others - the most abject misery. Maternity, one of the blessings of marriage for many women, was a life-stage with both biological and cultural meaning. But not all women desired marriage. Many of them expressed reservations and had taken the term of "single woman".
The second chapter is dealing with the subject proper, it is named Women in the century of the Enlightenment. To give the real situation of the women in the Enlightenment, I would like firstly to give the definition of the Enlightenment. The concept of the Enlightenment refers to the 18th century and is associated with intellectual development and philosophers that bring forth new ideas about society.

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