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Den dolda offentligheten: Kvinnlighetens sfärer i 1800-talets svenska högreståndskultur
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Arts, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Ethnology.
2008 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Hidden Publicity : Female Spheres in the 19th Century Swedish Nobility (English)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is an analysis of the every day life and culture of Swedish noble women during the 19th century from the perspective of the public-private dichotomy. The aim of the dissertation is to show how the dichotomy affected women’s lives and how gender differences were created and preserved according to the notion of the dichotomy. A recurrent question has been if women and men were separated in their lives, how these boundaries were maintained or how they were ignored. Was there a “female sphere” where the men did not have access – and vice versa?

Four women are in the centre of the study. Marie Charlotte (1791-1876), Adolfina (1794-1881), Jacquette (1801-1872) and Carolina (1803-1859) were born as daughters to Herman Adolf Tersmeden (1758-1836) and his wives, Christina Ulrika Rosén von Rosenstein (1764-1797) and her sister Anna Margareta Rosén von Rosenstein (1761-1838).

By following the women in friendship, sociability, work and in the home I want to establish that the private-public dichotomy is much more complex when looked at closer. This is an extensive field of research and many have attempted to establish the “private woman” and “public man”. I have chosen a different path in discussing the public-private dichotomy. Instead of getting caught up in narrow definitions of public on one hand and private on the other, I want to see the relationship between the two as terminals on an ever sliding scale and use the idea of the procedural as a model for explanation. In this the idea of negotiations is embedded. Public and private is not to be seen as fixed and as etiquettes, but rather as terminals on a scale, always subjected to testing, discussions and negotiations. This means that something is always changing, altering and evolving.

In my discussion I have focused on four sisters and their sense of hospitality and the culture of visiting. I will show how the home during this time was more or less the only important arena for women’s sociability. Here they displayed their home, their wealth, their families and themselves in a wide range of ways. But this is not to be understood as these women were limited to only a private arena. Rather, the women used the home, and the interior design, to mark power and hierarchy. Different rooms were used for different guests and some china was reserved only for the most important guests. The women also took an active part in entertaining people their husbands had business relations with. By devoting themselves to charity they extended their realm to other parts of the society outside the immediate family.

To be able to take up space and manifest their presence, the women always had to negotiate about the access to the different spheres. It did not have to be a conscious negotiation by the women; rather it was a testing of limits and exploring the possibilities.

Having followed the four sisters it is obvious that they created public spheres. They themselves were public on account of the fact that their actions and activities affected others beside themselves. This is a publicity that often ends up in the background and is being hidden.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. , 309 p.
Keyword [en]
Aristocracy, nobility, public, private, gender, 19th Century, Sweden
Keyword [sv]
Adel, kvinnor, offentligt, privat, genus, 1800-talet, Sverige
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-8635ISBN: 9789173311175OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-8635DiVA: diva2:171801
Public defence
2008-05-07, Erik Gustaf Geijer-salen, Hus 6, Thunbergsvägen 3P, 75238 Uppsala, 10:15
Available from: 2008-04-11 Created: 2008-04-11Bibliographically approved

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