Plzeňské sympozia

Stanislava Musilová (Klečáková)

“Fallen Women”: A Micro-probe. Emancipation versus Pauperization

pp. 254–265 (Czech), Summary pp. 265–266 (English)

Surveys of the social status of women in the 19th century usually regard the process of emancipation as a positively perceived progress in women’s potential of selfrealization in the public space. On the other hand, however, the context of urban sprawl became instrumental in the emergence of an opposite tendency, namely one conducive to multiple cases of women hitting the bottom, both morally and socially. Can evidence relating to specific fates of “fallen women” serve to demonstrate this averted side of the emancipation coin? Is it therefore possible at all to draw a parallel between the emancipation and pauperization of women, and at the same time to avoid meting out any simplified sort of verdict over the emancipation process in its entirety, in accord with the mindset of the standard period treatises on the issue? Here, a set of documentary penal law sources related to the operation of the prison for women in Řepy were perused with a view to describing some of the emancipatory strategies detectable in the behaviour of that prison’s female inmates. The criteria of key relevance to this study included the factor of women’s autonomy, material and gender-related alike, and their ability to organize a criminal activity of other  persons. Apart from very rare cases of the female inmates who did meet these criteria, it can be concluded that in general, the imprisoned women’s patterns of behaviour and attitudes much rather tend to reflect inertia characteristic for criminalized social strata which continued to stick to their thoroughly pre-modern ways regardless of the time’s advancing modernization process, and to which the pursuit of women’ s emancipation therefore remained in principle out of bounds.

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