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The ‘‘Rights of Woman’’ and the Problem of Power

The ‘‘Rights of Woman’’ and the Problem of Power The ‘‘Rights of Woman’’ and the Problem of Power ANDREW CAYTON What I value most about David S. Shields and Fredrika J. Teute’s series of remarkable essays is the example of scholars willing to investigate important questions in unexpected places and to push our collective conversation in different directions. More specifically, they challenged me, and many others, to rethink our conventional sense of the ‘‘rights of woman’’ as a political problem and contemplate its cultural dimensions. Rather than frame the question of women and power in terms of citi- zenship, Shields and Teute approached it within a social context. Their republican court is a variation on the monarchical courts of early modern Europe as much as the salons of eighteenth-century Paris. Renowned for lavish entertainments, costumes, meals, and patronage of artists, musi- cians, and the occasional writer, courts were theaters of intrigue where the common goal was access to the body of the princess. In this patriar- chal world, women exercised influence but they rarely exercised power. Elizabeth Tudor was the exception that proved the rule. Women mat- tered to the extent of their attachment to powerful men; young women mattered even more because their bodies, in particular their http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the Early Republic University of Pennsylvania Press

The ‘‘Rights of Woman’’ and the Problem of Power

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Publisher
University of Pennsylvania Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.
ISSN
1553-0620

Abstract

The ‘‘Rights of Woman’’ and the Problem of Power ANDREW CAYTON What I value most about David S. Shields and Fredrika J. Teute’s series of remarkable essays is the example of scholars willing to investigate important questions in unexpected places and to push our collective conversation in different directions. More specifically, they challenged me, and many others, to rethink our conventional sense of the ‘‘rights of woman’’ as a political problem and contemplate its cultural dimensions. Rather than frame the question of women and power in terms of citi- zenship, Shields and Teute approached it within a social context. Their republican court is a variation on the monarchical courts of early modern Europe as much as the salons of eighteenth-century Paris. Renowned for lavish entertainments, costumes, meals, and patronage of artists, musi- cians, and the occasional writer, courts were theaters of intrigue where the common goal was access to the body of the princess. In this patriar- chal world, women exercised influence but they rarely exercised power. Elizabeth Tudor was the exception that proved the rule. Women mat- tered to the extent of their attachment to powerful men; young women mattered even more because their bodies, in particular their

Journal

Journal of the Early RepublicUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

Published: Apr 29, 2015

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