Although the topic of gender has been comparatively well explored with respect to Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries, the 18th century (1700-1825) is still under-researched. This collection of essays by authorities in the field from the USA, Russia and Western Europe focuses on the social history and culture both of noblewomen and of lower-class women, about whom relatively little is currently known. Much of the research is based on women's own evidence and on archival documents. The volume opens with a survey of research in this area and with discussions of male constructions of femininity at the beginning and end of the century. Women's culture is explored through women's own accounts of their education, and studies of their letters and literary works. Particular attention is paid to the direction of their reading by mentors and to the journals provided for women by male writers. Special topics include dress and cosmetics, arrangements for the defence of privacy, dowries, and irregular marital unions. Three essays uncover evidence about the lives of lower-class women, their involvement with the courts, and their experience of employment.
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