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Agency for German Gals

Continental Women’s Agency is a collection of essays that explore the complex ways that women and young girls construct all their lives across Europe. It employs a range of methodological solutions and new archival material to investigate the interplay between gender, society and the ways that girls manage their daily experiences. The chapters in this volume look at women’s encounters from various cultural, societal and financial perspectives: as mothers and wives; as philanthropists; as writers and artists; and as activists. Despite the vastly different source materials, some key themes unite the contributions as a whole. One is the centrality of a notion of female agency. The authors employ micro-studies of individual cases to reveal how women, despite their legal disabilities because of their gender, could assert considerable agency in the pursuit of their interests.

The papers in this amount emphasize how crucial it is to take gender into account when describing Europe’s earlier connectivity processes. Maria Pia Di Nonno, for instance, looks at how the women in Malta’s Common Assembly and the forerunner to the European Parliament actively influenced the inclusion of Europe. In Bernard Capp’s section on Agnes Beaumont, the subject herself wrote a language to demonstrate how disobeying her father was an act of independent bureau.

A final factor discusses how express socialist women’s organizations in Eastern Europe served as both brokers on behalf of women and prevented their bureau at the same time. A closer examination of the buildings and political contexts in which these standard organizations operated reveals a more nuanced image, and the artist casts doubt on revisionist female scholars’ assertions that they were “agents on behalf of people.”

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