The Enlightenment was a complex and often contradictory moment for women in Europe and its colonies. The period between 1680 and 1800 saw civil liberties established through political and intellectual revolution. At the same time, contemporary thinkers produced justifications for ongoing gender, class, and racial inequalities which had profound effects on women. An age of burgeoning commercial and imperial expansion, the period witnessed the birth of consumer society and the peak of the Atlantic slave trade. Modern liberal feminism grew up in this environment, as did the abolition movement, early racial science and, incipiently, the science of sexuality.
A Cultural History of Women in the Age of Enlightenment examines the ways in which women in differing national and social contexts negotiated the challenging cultural terrain of emergent modernity. The volume presents essays on women's life cycle, bodies and sexuality, religion and popular beliefs, medicine and disease, public and private realms, education and work, power, and artistic representation.