This is how women were allowed to take part in the public debate in the 19th century & More Trending News



“The 1800s was an exciting time due to the public sphere that was emerging. During this period, more literature was circulating than before, people were reading more, and more people were participating in the public debate,” Heidi Karlsen says.

Heidi Karlsen works as a senior tutorial librarian and researcher at BI Norwegian Business School and is senior lecturer II at the Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Oslo the place she teaches digital humanities.

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In her doctoral thesis, she has investigated texts about women in the interval between 1830 and 1880.

Using a mixture of digital textual content retrieval and shut studying, Heidi Karlsen has gone by 7,000 texts that were written about women’s place in the 1800s.

The doctoral diploma was part of the ‘Data-mining the Digital Bookshelf` project and had the digital book collection of the National Library of Norway as a research object. The National Library has digitised large parts of Norway’s textual cultural heritage from a number of centuries again to the current day.

Through a collaboration with computational linguist and programmer at the National Library of Norway, Lars G. Johnsen, Karlsen has mapped 7,000 texts.

The texts are taken from novels, quick tales, devotional books, didactic books and different kinds of fiction and non-fiction, of each Norwegian and international origin. In the texts, she has came upon how women were ready to take part in the public debate.

A lady’s place was in the residence

While algorithms helped Karlsen discover related texts, her analysis is primarily based on the thinker Michel Foucault’s discourse analytical methodology described in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’ from 1969.

“We must read the texts based on the time in which they were written. This is the period just before the modern breakthrough and the prelude to what we see today as the first wave of feminism. Modernity increased knowledge about the population, and it became important for each individual nation to strengthen its population,” she says.

At this time, extra males skilled political rights and took a better part in social life than earlier than, whereas women’s place in the public debate was securely hooked up to the residence.

“It was an established view that the woman was fundamentally different from the man, that specific qualities were part of her nature, and that these qualities combined with the right formation gave her a special ability to perform her tasks in the home,” says Karlsen.

Ideals that conflict with the politics of the time

Heidi Karlsen thinks the distinction between males and women presently is an attention-grabbing paradox.

Her analysis exhibits that it was the identical beliefs that positioned the girl in the residence that additionally gave her a chance to negotiate this place.

“It was important that the woman gave the right food to her children, that she conveyed religious messages and ensured that the children became good Christians. According to the views of that time, women had a natural potential for good morals, and it was also her job to give the children morals and values that enabled them to become good citizens. It was therefore important that she could read and that she got a good formative education so that she could perform these tasks as well as possible,” Karlsen says.

She believes that a number of of the bourgeois beliefs and non secular virtues were in battle with the modernisation of society at the time.

“One of the ideals for women was to remain silent. But how do you ensure that your children become good citizens if you follow that rule?” she asks.

Female nature was not questioned

Many of the texts Karlsen has learn are non secular devotional books which have been translated from German, Swedish and English, and immediately tackle women with recommendation and admonitions about how she ought to be.

However, authors reminiscent of Norwegian Camilla Collett, Swedish Fredrika Bremer and French George Sand additionally wrote about women’s place in society and thus negotiated how free women ought to be and how much areas they need to take part in.

“The authors did not dispute natural gender differences but used qualities that were considered specific to female nature as a reason why women should participate in public life,” Karlsen explains.

She highlights examples reminiscent of Fredrika Bremer’s textual content ‘To Sweden’s Women’ which was printed in the ‘Den Constitutionelle’ newspaper in 1844. In the textual content, she paid homage to feminine qualities reminiscent of the capability for care, gentleness and kindness.

At the identical time her textual content was a name for women, exactly due to these qualities, to take part in the public sphere to a better extent.

Technology offers entry to extra literature

Karlsen discovered the 7,000 texts for her analysis undertaking utilizing algorithms that recognized particular phrases when used collectively. Without the know-how, she wouldn’t have been ready to get by that quantity of literature. The digital strategies were additionally vital in figuring out literature that was not essentially considered excessive literary texts.

“Due to the fact that the text is digitalised regardless of its status, we also get access to some literature that we have not had access to before. By understanding what we give precedence to and what we disregard, our knowledge of what kind of cultural glasses we are wearing is increased. It allows us to understand more about what society’s prejudices were at a certain point in time,” she explains.

In addition, the National Library of Norway’s digital assortment additionally offered entry to international texts about women’s place in the public sphere presently. These were vital to embody in the analysis.

“Women’s place in society was also a theme in texts from other countries. Women’s place in Norwegian society should therefore be analysed using international sources. The digitalisation of texts has made it easier for us to do this,” says Karlsen.


Heidi Karlsen. ‘A Discourse Analysis of Woman’s Place in Society 1830–1880 by Data Mining the Digital Bookshelf,’ Doctoral dissertation, University of Oslo, 2020.

Heidi Karlsen. ‘Kvinner i Nasjonalbibliotekets digitaliserte samlinger i perioden 1830–1880: etableringen av en minoriserende diskurs’ (Women in the National Library’s digitised collections in the interval 1830–1880: the creation of a minorising discourse), Minoritetsdiskurser i norsk litteratur, Universitetsforlaget, 2021. Abstract.

Heidi Karlsen: Foucault’s archeological discourse evaluation with digital methodology—Discourse on women prior to the first wave women’s motion, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, 2022.

This is how women were allowed to take part in the public debate in the 19th century

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