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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

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“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.

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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

“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

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

Sat, 30 Sep 2017 13:46:00 -0500