Friday, October 16, 2009

Nationalism and the Rise of Women

This weeks readings in The Age of Empire by Eric Hobsbawm started off by talking about the rise of nationalism, “one major by-product of democratization” (142). Nationalism appeared and grew between 1880 and 1914. It was during this period that people began identifying with their nation specifically in places like Germany and Italy. Nationalism worked its way into politics by affiliating itself with the political right and with patriotism. Nations changed during this period, and nations were formed. People began “to define a nation in terms of ethnicity and especially in terms of language” (144). Although nations formed around language, many chose to move to America, start a new life, and learn English “as a matter of necessity or convenience” (147). Hobsbawm then moves to talk about the “new woman.” The lives of women changed around the period of the rise of nationalism, they were now marring later and having fewer children due to the increase in life expectancy. Women were also beginning to enter the work force. While in the past there had been a few women working, they were by far rare and brilliant. During this time period, the number of laboring women grew significantly, although not for the best. Women worked because of industrialization and out of necessity to support their families because of economic revolution. Women with younger children also needed someone at home, so many could not enter the industrial world. Families still needed money, so many women began doing jobs within their houses so they could take care of their kids and help support the family financially. Women’s rights were increasing, and eventually women pushed and gained emancipation. Hobsbawms statement that “a century after Napoleon, the Rights of Man of the French revolution had been extended to women” was one of the most interesting and moving in the entire book (217). This weeks readings overall were about the rise of nationalism and the creation of the new woman.

The second part of chapter six begins with stating that some resisted the spread of nationalism. I thought it interesting that people did not go with the flow and desire to identify with their nation. There were people such as in the United Kingdom who refused to identify with England as a whole and continued speaking Welch. While I do not understand people who speak French, living in France, choosing to identify with France as a whole, I can understand Welshmen desiring not to loose their identity.

I also found it interesting that people were now finally deciding to have fewer children. Hobsbawm states that people in cities were “stimulated by the desire for a higher standard of living” (194). I am wondering why you think people finally decided to have fewer children and start marrying later. Why now did people desire a better life? While “conditions of life change, and even the pattern of women’s existence does not remain the same through generations” what made this change occur so quickly (195)?

1 comment:

  1. I also found the sudden decision to have fewer children very intriguing, which was pretty well explained in the chapter, "The New Woman." However, you make a good point by questioning this new desire to possess a higher standard of living, which is something I personally tied in with the part of the reading that was about the rise of the middle class. Hobsbawm describes how this less formal and more privatized lifestyle was becoming more popular with the growth in the middle class. They thrived for an essentially domestic lifestyle because through this economic expansion they were in reach of success, so we see suburban homes and so on becoming more common. I was under the impression that during this time period, the larger middle class is directly correlated with this change in lifestyle or higher standard of living.