Innovations in the education of women of the modern era through the prism of the microhistory of family (on materials of the Russian Empire)

O. Drach


Introduction. Study of the mechanism of transforming potential causes into actual motives of human activity involves the study of both macrohistory, which reveals the influence of society (economic, political, spiritual macro-processes of social life) on the behavior of individuals and microhistory, that shows the ways of incorporating individual activities into a collective one. The application of the concept of value orientations in historical research actualizes the phenomenon of human desires and aspirations, which helps to comprehend the changes in a public process, contributes to a deeper understanding of the specific actions of individuals.

Purpose. Significant increase of interest to the study of female social practices and everyday experience of different ages led to the emergence of numerous scientific articles in leading journals, anthologies of women’s texts, manuals, handbooks and in-depth monographic studies. At the same time many problems of the history of women’s education still remain outside the attention of researchers. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the process of perception of new models of women’s education, particularly teaching at the higher female courses, through the prism of the microhistory of the modern-time family on the territory of the Russian Empire.

Results. The family in the first half of the nineteenth century was the microsocial environment through which the individual realized the connection with the macrosocial environment – then society and the state. Family relations of traditional society were based on the following principles: herarchy, the dependence of the functions, rights and duties of members on gender and age. Highly valued among the nobility was early marriage of daughters. Women’s memoirs show that marrying for the sake of family interests was commonplace. Besides controlling the household and children, a married noblewoman spent time sewing and embroidering, and doing visits.

The ideas of the enlightenment and romanticism influenced humanization of relations in the noble families. Some girls were not content with the usual fate of an advantageous marriage, purely female concerns and interests. The ideals of the «common good» and personal responsibility for one’s own life prompted generations of women in the period of modernization reforms in the Russian Empire to declare the intention of self-improvement.

In General, the post-reform society of the Russian Empire met the novel aspirations of women to a better educational level with skepticism and disapproval. The intention of the girls to study at the University for women has led to conflict situations in families. For the older generation it was not easy to perceive innovations in the behavior of the girls, condemned their offsprings. Only in families with a democratic atmosphere the older generation accepted the new needs of young people with moderation and helped to realize their own scenario of gaining life experience.

Conclusion. The public atmosphere of the modern era led to a cultural transformation that started the gradual transformation of the norms of the traditional worldview, and the latter caused qualitative changes in the nature of family relations and relations of the family with society. Enlightenment ideas strongly emphasised the role of education as a fundamental social institution for the training of new generations of citizens. In this context, the mission of women, who, in addition to the implementation of the natural roles of wife, mother and educator, sought to become the highly educated and public-a useful member of society, was to pursue higher education. Generalization of the practice of conflict resolution in families of the period of the great reforms in the Russian Empire reveals the essential conservatism of the generation of parents and the extreme radicalism of young women about the transformation of established social norms with a clear gender-social roles.


girls, marriage, female education, higher courses for women, parents, family


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