Female writers in the literary critics

Female writers in the literary critics



Female writers in the literary critics

1. Round table Los Angeles : Navigating Troubled Waters, Women and Institutional Politics


The last decennia of the twentieth century were characterized by a revival of interest in female literature and genderstudies. This may be interpreted as a reaction to the ignorance of which this type of research had been looked up before. Meanwhile the tide has turned and writing women are studied at all levels.

Female writers in the literary critics (1997) by Lia van Gemert and Ans Veltman-van den Bos, is an article that shows the discrepancy between the book reviews of male writers and female writers. In 1772 the male reviewer of the Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen wrote that he lived in a century of poetesses. In every review is explicitly  mentioned that it is a female writer!  Restricted to ‘The circle of art of her sex’ women were allowed to climb the Parnassus. The combination of ‘utile and dulce’ was considered as the wit of  female writing.  The subservient Anna van Meerten-Schilperoort  and the blind Petronella Moens were subordinated to arts, exercise  and  all their activities  were geared to the public, rather than their own expression and originality.

The subjects of the female works of art were limited. The reviewer intends to convince his public readers that a writer does not identify with his story. There are two conditions: standard conventions must not be risked and thrilling  ideas should be reserved for a restricted public of readers.  Reviewers managed the  described situations  in the books and made  them unreal, to prevent consequences in real society.  
De Lannoy and Van Merken understood that entertaining is the real view of writing. Their poetry was often called ‘male’ and  not female, on the other hand the reviewer asked why there are no more women to write in that high, more expressive standard. 

In the following enumeration several modern female studies are reviewed.


Ans J. Veltman-van den Bos

Petronella Moens (1762-1843) The Friend of the Nation, Nijmegen 2000 



In the late eighteenth century several societies studied literature and humaniora. A female member of these influential societies was Petronella Moens, the subject of this cultural-historical study, that is meant to display the opinions of the bourgeoisie in politics, religion and education during the last half of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century. The vast body of work of Petronella Moens contains a reflection of her ideas and those of her friends and acquaintances in the literary and religious world during a turbulent period of Dutch history.

The first chapter contains a brief outline of her life and literary contacts. The  second shows the contemporaneous reception of her books and a review of the state of affairs in modern investigation.  Chapter three includes the reflection on the political works of Petronella Moens, bedded in the stream of historical events of the revolutionary times at the end of the eighteenth century and the first decades of the nineteenth century. Chapter four is devoted to her religious statements and chapter five should be seen as a summary of her pedagogical ideas concerning the education  of children, the lower classes and women. 



Petronella Moens, daughter of the clergyman Peter Moens, was in her days a well-known writer of poems, novels, books for children and magazines, born in Friesland, educated in Zealand, in a little town, named Aardenburg, later on living in several places in Holland.
From her early childhood she was totally blind, caused by smallpox. Her mother, a member of the Lyklama à Nijholt family, died when Petronella was four years old. Her father and two sisters were very helpful in the beginning of her career, later on she relied on a female secretary.

Moens’ Liber Amicorum (book of friends) – subject of  investigation at this moment  - shows in the meantime that she knew how to handle people. She had a lot of friends and acquaintances, clergyman, scholars and men and women of letters. They were impressed by the never ending stream of her novels, poems and articles. Being a member of several literary societies, she was able to publish her poems and to move among the best of literary Holland and Flanders.




She got mixed reviews on her work from the periodicals in her time. They admired her as a valuable member of the community. Some criticized her exaggerated metaphorical language. The subjects of her works mattered. Her enlightened ideas were exposed to a large audience of citizens of the middle-class. The claims of ‘usefulness for the Nation’, or ‘pure stylistics’ and ‘probability of the representations’ are founded in the classic-pragmatic poetical rules, that puts social service in the first place.

Depending on her family and friends, Moens’ popularity was highly based on love and compassion. Her charming personality caused a lifelong admiration, but after her death, her works were soon forgotten.

The last decades of the twentieth century, this fascinating woman and the study of the conceptual world of her period, marked a new era in the ‘Moens’-investigations. Several students learnt from her articles and books about her view and those of contemporary citizens in Holland on friendship, religious problems, education of children and women, the pursuit of abolition of slavery and the political mind of the Dutch people in the early nineteenth  century.

In that way Moens is back in the attention at the university in studies of culture, history, education, sociology and gender.


In her political work during the French Revolution and the founding of the Batavian Republic, she wrote with her radical patriot friend Bernardus Bosch several articles and poems. They criticised the government, pleaded for total freedom of speech and writing, supported equality and brotherhood, but they accepted the difference between individual persons and their rank in society.

In 1798 Moens founded her own periodical, called The Friend of the Nation (1798/1799). She belonged to the Dutch Patriots and welcomed enthusiastically the French Revolution in 1795, propagating anti-Orange sentiments and radical ideas. Resentment however dominated her articles in the Napoleonic years of the Republic.
Moens welcomed the Prince of Orange at his repatriation in 1813 with honouring words just as she had done to his father in 1785 in Aardenburg! The enlightened poetess believed in a democracy according to the Trias Politica of Montesquieu, shown in her exotic novel Aardenburg or the unknown settlement in Southern America.  (1817)



The religious views of Moens, revealed in books and articles is the main item of the study. She proclaimed a definitive divorce between church and state. This question was important in connection with the financial privileges  of the clergymen in the Reformed Church and the emancipation of the other Christian churches and the Jews.

She did not press people to some political position based on a religious concept. She idealized some kind of ‘national religion’ as a source of honourable behaviour. In her works Moens is shown as a representative of the Reformed Enlightenment.

Her faith in God’s wisdom was beyond all doubt. She composed a hymn about that theme, still present in the modern hymnals. Predestination was repudiated by Moens, because of its cruelty and her lack of understanding of this concept of the Reformed Church. Dogmatic theology, sacraments, her belief in immortality and resurrection, and the way God is manifest in nature were part of her religious works.

In Moens’ opinion, deism was not the answer on all religious questioning: believers are in need of revelation. She dealt in the culture of mortality poetry, well-known from the English poets Young, Hervey and Gray. She saw death as a rebirth.

Conspicuous  are her enlightened ideas – disposed of anti-Semitism – of the Jewish society and her contacts with freemasonry.
The Turks and the Muslims could do no good in Moens’ opinion, showing much intolerance and ignorance.  She adored the Greek in their fight for freedom against the Turks.

Moens pleaded for burial outside the churches, for hygienic reasons and against false pride. Jubilant she described the green pastures and the trees of the graveyards outside the villages, where the deceased could rest in peace, waiting for the day of resurrection. She disapproved of suicide as an expression of distrust in God.

However she was aware of the lucrative business for the Dutch tradesmen, she supported  the pursuit of abolition and detested the slave trade. In this case she was more progressive than her Dutch contemporaries.

Transubstantiation during the Holy Communion was repudiated by Moens. Her rational approximation of religious secrets forced her to see Jesus as the perfect specimen of mankind, beloved by God, less the Son of God, yet an example for true believers and the most important person in the Bible, after God. She believed in his sacrifice for mankind.

Many parables and stories from the Old Testament are retold in her work. She was anxious about the acknowledge of youth about the Holy Bible. The story of Esther was her favourite. So, Petronella Moens tried to combine the mostly moral religion of her days with the enlightened ideas and rational mind.    



Not a feminist woman from the twenty first century, but an eighteenth century female writer told the men in her time that all genius start in the nursery.   Petronella  Moens thought her spectatorial  articles an outstanding example to explain the Enlightened ideas to a broadly-based reading public. Not only the upbringing of male genius, the female education was of great interest too. Petronella Moens’ importance for the public education was obvious, in spite of the impossibility to measure the influence of her writings.


Friend of the Nation


Subjects of her own magazine The Friend of the Nation, (1798-1799), are for example:


1.The sense of the presence of God is especially clear in the spring.
3.To the Batavian people.
4.Arnold, or the always happy virtue.

5.The welfare of the peace

6.The feeling of immortality

7.Pure morals are the basic of the happiness of the community.

8.What are real merits?

9.Real courage of an hero.

10.About the burial of the deceased.

11.The real patriotic.

13.To the Batavian mothers.

15.What is a blessing revolution?

16.A history from the old days of nobility.

19.No clergymen in the government.

20.The benefit of  a better education.
24.For my Jewish Brothers.
25.About the armament of citizens.
26.Only virtuousness brings up satisfaction.
27.The duty of men of law.
29.Incentive to unity.
30.Thought during autumn.
31.To my fellow countrymen in bringing up taxes.
32.To my mourning countrymen.
33.About the pensions.
34.All people are brothers.
35.To the Reformed believers.
37.The real patriot trembles les for revolt.
39.About the dividing [ of The Netherlands]in departments.
40.Thoughts in winter.
41.Without wise laws no luck for the people.
42.Believing in immortality is the source of our happiness.
45.Something about the national navy.
46.Unselfish friendship.
47.Lonely thoughts.
49.Diligence is the mother of the national happiness.
50.Manhood is in progress in  moral perfection.  

Willeke Los     

From learned women to learned mothers: eighteenth-century thoughts about education and motherhood.


The year 1762 was a very important year in history of upbringing and education. Not only the year of birth of Moens, but the year in which Rousseau’s famous and notorious brainchild
Emile ou de l’ Éducation saw the light of day. The publishing of Emile is generally seen as the start of a period, characterized by a great activity on the terrain of upbringing and education.

The seventeenth century knows some classic works,  it’s true, for example John Locke’s Some Thoughts concerning education (1693), soon after publishing translated in Dutch and published in Holland.  This work was of great influence on Rousseau. In the second half of the eighteenth century the number of pedagogical publications increased in a way that the Century of Enlightenment is often called the Century of Education.
Betje Wolff, a well known Dutch writer expressed it in her: Proeve over de Opvoeding, aan de Nederlandsche Moeders (1779) (Proof of Education, to the Dutch mothers) as follows:

Our century is, in one way, distinguished from al the earlier centuries. This is the century, in which one writes for children – (..) One takes  very much action of the upbringing of children, in so far upbringing can be promoted by plans and prescriptions. Wise persons did never understand so well the value of a child as in this time, a time in which a spirit of trifle  dominates our formerly so respectable Fatherland …

The enormous interest in questions of upbringing and education in the eighteenth century manifests itself by many competitions, hold by the various societies of humanities, the number of printed pedagogical discourses, and the stream of discourses about education in the numerous spectatorial writings. The competitions and activities of the  Society of  Public Benefit (founded 1784) were also largely concentrated on questions of upbringing and education.
In these discourses the writers present various themes. They make proposals about the physical education: mothers are advised to give breast-feeding themselves, little children have to get accustomed to fresh air,  they shall not wear squeezing clothes and so on.
These advises are meant to make the childish body  strong and healthy from an early age.

Beside attention to the physical education, there is also interest for the intellectual, moral and religious training of children. Key concept is that children shall learn only the things they can understand.  Knowledge has to be built up step by step. With regard to the religion it is important that the child has a clear image of God. The child has to know God as the Creator of Heaven and Earth, but his mind shall not be loaded up by several dogmatic problems.

Many writers criticise the education in the Netherlands.  In this way the discourses of the Society of Public Benefit are well known in this respect. They plea for better education of the teachers, introduction of a year class system,  extension of the school curriculum and a change of the method the children are taught. The case of  school curriculum : besides reading, writing, arithmetic, there should be given attention to geography, history, drawing and music. In general: education should be concentrated on the possibility to learn, in stead of learning by heart, learning by experiences, understanding and insight.

This enormous attention to upbringing and education, at home and in school is caused by at least  three  factors. In the first place the creation of a new portrayal of mankind, at Enlightenments eve. John Locke’s idea of the childish spirit as a ‘Tabula Rasa’ brought the balance between nurture and nature change in the advance of surroundings. Upbringing makes   people become what they are. [ It takes a village to raise a child.] In the Enlightenment the importance of upbringing is worked out and by Helvétius radicalised in his adage
‘l’éducation peut tout’.

In the second place in the second half of the eighteenth century a new culture and ideal  of refinement was formulated. This new ideal opposed the humanistic of classical ideal in the bastions of the universities and Latin schools, dominated by regents. In that way arts and sciences were seen as privilege of the elite. Mijnhardt speaks of an  humanistic and exclusive refinement concept. In the new concept the refinement is inclusive. Virtuousness, good morals and some education is necessary for all citizens. Supporters of this ideal were mostly citizens and they had not  completed the classical curriculum.  Many of them were autodidacts.

The third factor of interest in the discussion about upbringing and education is  the criticism of society. In many eighteenth sources the theme of economical decline  and deterioration of  morals is to be read. The writers link this problems directly to upbringing and education.

They criticise the higher circles, where the ideals of the middle class, such as thrift,  diligence and virtuousness are trampled. The excessive way of life of the upper class would have caused the economical and moral problems in the Netherlands of the eighteenth century. The money of the rich was not invested in trade and industry, but wasted in overabundance and amusement.  The leading circles in society fail in their duty and give the wrong example. The take the others with them in their fall, the criticise said.       

From this point of view the ideal education is created to reform society: children had to learn from their childhood their duties and in that way become good people and virtuous citizens and valuable  members of the community. Useful knowledge is therefore of great value.

In this reform program of community, women had an valuable task to perform. The item of girls education gets much interest in the enlightened pedagogical thought. Better education for girls, to become better wives and mothers later on. Betje Wolff urges the women on to read and to make up their arrears in knowledge. She calls some titles to help the mothers  on their 
way. For example Raff’s Describing the earth for children , a book she translated from  the German language.

In this climate of social consciousness and pedagogical activities Petronella Moens grew up. We can see from her relatives and friends that she was one of these group of social  writers. Their ideas are traceable in her works especially written for children. Her patriotic sense  and underlining of knowledge and education for the happiness of children is evident. In her books the mother plays an important role in passing on knowledge to children.
For example geography on a globe,  or biology, graphically describing nature during a walking tour with the children. They visit poor people to learn poor relief. 

Moens practises the way of teaching preached by Rousseau and the Philanthropists. She connects knowledge, beauty and happiness on the one hand with physical and mental state of mind on the other.
In The young Sophia (1820) she distinguishes the male and female nature. Men are powerful, women dispose of resignation  and mild manners to soften suffering.
To fulfil their duties, women had to dispose useful knowledge as mother and wife.

In the world of learning we see very clever women like Anna Maria van Schuurman in the seventeenth century and in the eighteenth century Belle van Zuylen a noble, learned women, in the highest region of scholarship. These women had no children, in contrary of  the mothers of the eighteenth century, they needed to study, to raise their children and to be a good wife for their husbands.                   

 Children’s books


The last decennia of the twentieth century were characterized by the revival of interest in juvenile literature. This may be interpreted as a reaction to the condescension with which literature for children and adolescents had been looked up before. Compared to ‘great literature’ juvenile literature was considered as of minor importance by men of letters. Meanwhile the tide has turned and juvenile literature is studied at all levels. All disciplines examine the cultural heritage of our juvenile literature. Via children’s books of history it is possible to trace a lot of the history of ideas of a certain period. From moralistic books for children it may be concluded what the prevailing pedagogical ideas were at the time of their publication. As Lea Dasberg demonstrated in her Children’s books as pedagogues children’s books were for al long time an excellent means of help for instructors. Since the middle of the eighteenth century the education of children was no longer a private matter, bus also as a case of public, politically coloured interest. Jan van Coillie and Stef Loots examined children’s books in Flemish and published their conclusions in 1984. The publication of these pioneers are followed by a stream of articles, anthologies and surveys in which historical juvenile literature takes a central position.  

Moens started on children’s books around 1806, when she stopped publishing polemic articles, disappointed by the political situation at the time. Her children’s books look similar to the works of Hiëronymus van Alphen, a well known writer of the eighteenth century, who was the first poet that wrote especially for children. Her childrenbooks  and books with nursery rimes contain nicely coloured pictures.

She wrote items for several almanacs, a genre with a wide range in the ninteenthe century.   
In 1824 she published an emblembook, based on the emblembook of Jan Luyken , 
Beginning, Middle and End of Men (1712).

She paid  attention to a wide range of pedagogical items, addressing herself not only to the children, but to their parents as well. The mothers have to raise the young children in the nursery, the fathers are responsible for the political education.

In the books of verses and stories for children Moens praises carefulness, diligence, useful homework, benevolence, playing games and dancing, exercising in the open air and healthy food. Vaccination against smallpox found in Petronella Moens a warm advocate, due to her illness during her childhood and in spite of opposite voices from others.

Moens was opposed to jealousy, boredom, avarice, dissatisfaction and cruelty against animals.
As a real woman of the enlightenment she disliked fairytales and ghostly novels. There is one exception: the real Dutch feast of St. Nicholas. The children should not be intimidated.

She told the children the usefulness of the seasons en different weather situations.  In this way she got even with prejudices and anxious thoughts that lived in the simple minds of ordinary people.

Petronella Moens deemed it necessary to improve the emancipatory education of girls and young women of her time. She agreed with the female destiny as mother and wife, but pleaded for knowledge  and social insight. Young women should learn more than the household and bringing up children. They should read books and papers and in that way become good companions for their husbands. In this case she was an adherent of the famous Betje Wolff and Aagje Deken. These thoughts were progressive, not revolutionary.

To serve a useful purpose, Petronella Moens and her father in his time, supported the Society of Public Benefit. One of the goals of this society was to educate children of the lower classes. Working for an common goal Moens produced reading books, ABC-books and so on.
Poor people got alms in Moens’ stories, but well-considered and long lasting assistance got priority.

Conforming the actual ranking, she said that if the whole society would be made of scholars, philosophers and highly admired scientist, who would build our houses, prepare our clothing and provide for thousands others needs?



Asking for the importance of Petronella Moens from a literary point of view, leads to the remark that her work after so many years is rightly forgotten. Very interesting however is the history of her ideas, the palette of meanings and convictions at the last decades of the eighteenth century and the first decades of the nineteenth century, the Age of Reason and Tolerance. Remembering the fact that she was blind and discussed the newspapers and periodicals with many friends, her work is a mirror of her time and very interesting for cultural historians.  



Marleen  de Vries


Civilization ! Literary societies in the Netherlands 1750-1800,  Nijmegen 2001

There are societies that have never known the novel. Tragedy, and other literary genres, but there are no societies without poems.
Octavio Paz, Convergences 

Four characteristics used to describe the change of ideas at the end of the eighteenth century  are also appropriate to the described ideology of the literal societies between 1750-1800, subject of this study: democratize, dynamize, ideologize and politicize. Aspects of the enlightenment under the name of civilazation!  The members of the societies were idealist and moralist. They wanted to say: ‘we are new, we are better’. Most of them,  were clergymen, students, scholars, doctors, jurists and tradesmen.
The female role in the  societies was larger than in the spectatorial  writing. The sentimental literature at the end of the century was inspired by the Christian apologetics. Really original were the societies in the form of their message. They used poetry or melodious prose, to wrap up the ideas.




Due to the  relative limited field of language the Netherlands are great in their societyculture, from the sixteenth century ‘Rederijkerskamers’ till the societies from the eighteenth century, described in this study. The base of their success is formed by the members themselves. They connected voluntary and they were financial independent. They exposed a pragmatic literal ideology, wrote and thought functional, which was of great interest.      





Lotte Jensen

Exclusive suitable for the female sex, Hilversum 2001.

This study deals with the development of women’s periodicals and activities of women journalists in the Netherlands between 1700 and 1870. In 1870 the first Dutch feminist periodicals, Ons Streven (1870-1878, ‘Our Cause’) and Onze Roeping (1870-1873,  ‘Our Vocation’) were founded. These periodicals are usually considered to differ radically from their predecessors in terms of topics and goals, and consequently the year 1870 is commonly considered the beginning of a new era in Dutch women’s press history. However, this assumption is largely due to unfamiliarity with the preceding period.  Therefore a closer examination of the contents of the earlier women’s periodicals is called for.
Writing about history of women’s periodicals automatically implies writing about  the historyc of female journalism, because many of these periodicals were edited by women. However, as some women also edited periodicals that targeted a mixed audience, these publications are also included in this thesis.
What motivated women to enter journalism? What topics did they write about and how did people react to their activities?  

This study is based on the assumption that periodicals do not merely reflect what is happening in society, but play a far more active role: they function as public debating spaces, where current issues may be discussed. By means of their pens journalists try to influence public opinions on a wide range of issues.
In analysing eighteenth- and nineteenth-century women’s periodicals Lotte Jensen focuses upon their role in creating public images of women and womanhood. Which images are being presented to the readers as examples? How were women supposed to behave in society? Of course, images of the ‘feminine’ were also being depicted in other types of periodicals, but women’s periodicals focused exclusively on the female sex. Throughout this study Jensen is paying special attention to what she considers the most striking and paradoxical feature of the women’s periodical: the fact that on the one hand they were used as tools for propagation of pervasive domestic ideology, while, on the other hand, they also had the radical potential to create a public space in which oppressive and repressive models of the feminine could be challenged.

Bearing this ambiguity in mind,  Jensen focuses on two themes. First, she analyses the ideas expressed in women’s periodicals about women’s emancipation. In order tot determine the significance of Dutch women’s periodicals for women’s liberation one needs a framework which distinguishes between the various kinds of emancipatory activities undertaken by women in the nineteenth century. There are three types of women’s activities and organisations:
Women’s activism (social or socio-political activities by women undertaken on behalf of other women, for example helping the poor, fighting slavery, working for peace etc. )
The women’s movement, (the above-mentioned activities, but explicitly undertaken on behalf of other women, sometimes expressed by a notion of ‘sisterhood’) and
Feminism ( the fight for equal rights and activities aimed at ending male domination and privilege).
This distinction enables us to clarify the dynamics of a social movement which gradually led from women’s religiously-inspired work to a feeling of particular responsibility for, and solidarity with, those of their own sex, and finally to an explicit fight for women’s equality. 

Secondly Jensen analyses the influence of women’s periodicals upon women’s writing in the Netherlands. Did they serve as a public space where women could publish their writings? Did the editors encourage women to become writers? Jensen argues that the women’s periodicals edited by women had a positive effect upon women’s writing. Women  journalists were often in touch with female colleagues, and their periodicals show signs of what could be called an international ‘network’ of women writers. The term ‘network’ is interpreted in a broad sense: it not only refers to real, personal contacts, but also includes the ‘virtual communities’ to which women journalists belonged. A connection between women writers could also be achieved by mentioning of reviewing one another’s writings or through a shared ideology. To which (foreign) women authors did Dutch journalists refer? By whom were they influenced?

Compared with other European countries such as England, France and Germany, women’s periodicals in the Dutch Republic started to appear relatively late. Copies of these periodicals, which all existed during a relatively short period, have not always survived, which makes it difficult for us to get a clear idea of their contents. However, two aspects seem to be typical. First, they mainly offered entertainment, while political subjects were avoided. Second, the editors (both male and female) tried to create a community of female writers and readers by encouraging women readers to contribute to the magazines.

The late development of the Dutch women’s press can be explained in several ways. In the first place the population of Dutch native speakers was relatively small, which led to a slower development of the press in general. In the second place competition with French women’s periodicals, which were also printed and distributed in the Dutch Republic, was probably unfavourable to the development of a native women’s press. Furthermore the market was already saturated by moral weeklies and other periodicals which were aimed at a mixed audience.

It is only in the second half of the eighteenth century that we start to find women editors or co-editors of Dutch periodicals and newspapers. Before this time several foreign women journalists were active in the Dutch Republic, but they all edited French-language periodicals.
During the politically turbulent years between 1795-1798 the number of Dutch women entering journalism suddenly increased. This increase is all the more remarkable because historians have so far assumed that the doctrine of separate male and female spheres became firmly rooted in Dutch society during this period.  The activities of women journalists belie this assumption. Authors such as Catharina Heybeek, Johanna Jacoba van Haaren-Beaumont, Maria Bos and Maria van Schie engaged in all kinds of political debates, and some of them even held revolutionary views on democratic values. Heybeek, the editor of the  Nationaale Bataafsche Courant (1797)   explicitly demanded equal rights for men and women and was jailed because of her provocative views.

After the coup d’ état in June 1798 the number of women journalists declined. Some women remained active, but the radicalism vanished from their writings.
A moderate position was taken by Petronella Moens (1762-1843), undoubtedly the most active Dutch woman journalist in the eighteenth century. Together with the writer and politician Bernardus Bosch she edited at least six periodicals during the nineties, and at the end of the century founded her own periodical, De Vriendin van ‘t Vaderland  (1798-1799 the Lady Friend of the Nation)
Although Moens sided with the Dutch Patriot movement and although her writings reflected the ideals of the French Revolution, she expressed her views in a very moderate way. All her periodicals displayed typical aspects of Enlightenment thought in combination with elements of traditional Christian thought. Some of her texts touched upon contemporary discussions on women’s rights. Using Rousseau’s concept of ‘la volonté  générale’, Moens argued that the needs of society were best met when men ruled and protected the country and women took responsibility for domestic life and the education of children. This implied that women should have a proper education, in order to comply with their duties.
Jensen suggests that in this roundabout  way, Moens did nonetheless strive to better women’s position in society.


In the periodicals that appeared before Ons Streven and Onze Roeping, hardly any reference is to be found tot the rise of feminism in foreign countriesx. Even Ons Streven and Onze Roeping, which explicitely strove to better women’s position in society, didn’t express feminist ideas. On the contrary, both editors were opposed to every form of radicalism, although they did pay ample attention tot the rise of progressive movements in Europe and the United States, and although they did establish connections with several key persons from these countries. However, the early nineteenth-century women’s periodicals did propagate greater influence by women in certain sectors of society, and thus paved the way for periodicals as Ons Streven and Onze Roeping . The activities considered to be typical female,  such as serving and caring for others.
As for the attitude of women’s periodicals towards women’s writing, there is a significant difference between those that were edited by men and those that were edited by women.
In general, few women writers were included on the editorial boards of magazines edited by men, women editors, on the contrary, often used their magazines to create a public space for women colleagues, and in this sense these periodicals had a radical potential.  Some of them show signs suggesting that they functioned within a larger international  network of   women writers and journalists. 



Dorothée Sturkenboom

Spectators of passion,  Gender and emotional culture in the eighteenth century, Hilversum 1998


Towards the end of January 1761 an author whose identity has remained hidden in the shadow of history is sitting at his desk beating his brains and biting his quill, trying to think of a topic for the weekly article he has to produce for De Vrouwelijke Spectator (‘The female Spectator’). Since launching this journal a few months ago, the author is frequently tormented by writer’s block. Vexed at the lack of ideas, he seeks inspiration in the pages of an English periodical. Suddenly he stumbles on an essay describing the invention of a mysterious female  thermometer designed tto measure the intensity of female passions, and inspiration strikes. The very thing!

Though he will have to adjust the narrative to suit the Dutch situation, the anonymous writer is confident that the controversial theme of the female passions will guarantee  good sales figures for this week’s issue. Impelled by his own enthusiasm, he immediately starts translating the essay in Dutch.


This short and partly fictionalised anecdote introduces a study of gender in the emotional culture of a group of eighteenth-century Dutch writers. The writer described was one of a group whose anonymous texts have become known in Dutch historiography as the spectorial papers, or simply as the spectators, after the famous English journal The Spectator published in 1711-1712 by Richard Steele and Joseph Addison, whose formula the copied. The Spectator  was one of the first of a sizeable number of popular journals that appeared in the eighteenth century, whose authors were united by a common purpose: to enlighten their contemporaries and improve  society.


The Dutch spectators tell us a great deal about shifting views of sex differences and emotions.

This book treats the spectatorial papers, their writers’ ideas and the contexts in which they were produced as a unique historical constellation that can show us how historical circumstances and social mechanisms govern not only people’s emotional lives and the way they experience femininity and masculinity, but also the ways in which these feelings are crystallized into cultural expressions.

So the perspective adopted here is  constructivist. The basic premise is that the nature of both sex differences and emotion  is strongly influenced by changing cultural ideas about their meaning. Two concepts that are central to research are introduced early on: emotional culture and gender. Emotional culture is defined as the total set of ‘feeling rules’, ‘expression norms’ and ‘emotion words’ as well as ideals, theories and popular convictions that guide the recognition, experience, evaluation, expression and knowledge of emotions and feelings within a certain group and period of time.


Gender is defined as the social and cultural distinction between men and women, which is often attributed to universal biological differences between the sexes but is actually informed by constructions of femininity and masculinity that are both time and culture bound. In Western culture, emotions and gender are linked through various mechanisms in an intricate chain of meaning.


The purpose of this study is to problematize, historicize and contextualize this cultural link between gender and emotion. This end is pursued through a close analysis of the emotional culture of the mentioned spectatorial essayists. Several key questions are therefore addressed in this dissertation.

What are the distinguishing features of the emotional culture of these eighteenth-century authors? What place, meaning and function did gender have within this culture? What continuities and discontinuities manifested themselves in the different elements of this culture? And finally, what historical processes and socio-cultural mechanisms can help us to understand and explain these characteristics and developments?  




Thus gender functioned as a fundamental category of meaning in the emotional culture of the Dutch spectatorial authors. To be sure, gender was of minor importance in the philosophical emotion discourse, the humoral theory of the temperaments, the emotional vocabulary and the general standard of reasonable self control that applied to both sexes. But gender strongly influenced the more specific feeling rules and expression norms as well as later medical theories of the nervous system. Above all, gender was a central category in the ‘excess psychology’, which was a cultural theory of emotion with social and political implications.

As such, gender played an important role in the spectatorial construction of emotional identities, developing in close interaction with the social relationships and political-economic circumstances within the Dutch Republic.


Furthermore, this study of a specific emotional culture in the eighteenth century reveals that the easily swayed heart can be regarded as a historical perpetuum mobile: although it was nearly always classified as feminine, the contents of this classification changed substantially.

Dangerous passions gave way to salutary feelings, the wicked wife tot a desirable loving spouse, the immoral rake to a sensitive youth. The man-in-control became a man-of-feeling, passionate emotionality changed to sentimentality, and sentimentality ended up provoking a sense of unease.


What remained was a continuous anxiety about the individual and social effects of the emotions, in a heavily gendered system of meaning. In the final pages of this study it is suggested that we can still discern the results of this emotional climate in present-day society, which is so unlike and yet in so many ways resembles the eighteenth-century world of the spectatorial authors. 


Myriam Everard

Soul and Senses, On love and desire between women in the latter half of the 18th. Century. Groningen 1994.


No-one who has studied the history of sexuality is likely, by this point in time, to uphold the view that homosexuality – whether male of female – can be regarded as a universal, timeless category. It is true that an appeal to the ‘naturalness’ of biology and the continuity of history helped homosexuality, at the close of the 19th century, to gain the ‘right to existence’, that since then, in the personal lives of gay men and women, this sexual identity has revealed itself as defining their true nature; that lesbians have embedded themselves in a history that goes back at least as far as Sappho of Lesbos. Yet all history and biology – and the ways in which they are used – are in fact timebound. To put it more concisely, even what presents itself as essence – femininity, sexuality, female homosexuality – has a history an d a significance that vary according to context. It is this ‘social constructivist’ interpretation of  history, as it is called in the field, that underlies Soul and Senses. 

To refute the timelessness of homosexuality is scarcely controversial if all one means is that the word ‘homosexuality’  is not timeless. The word was in fact coined, in its original German form, as late as 1869, and was not absorbed as a loan-word into the various languages of Western Europe until the 1890s. But that does not itself make homosexuality a social, historical category. For this to be made plausible, it would have to be demonstrated not only for the words but also for  ‘the order of things’that is wrong to speak of historical constants; that what came to be referred to as female homosexuality had no equivalent before. We would have to show, in short, that there was simply no female homosexuality, as such, in earlier times – not something that used to go by another name, nor yet something that would have been called by that name if only the term had existed. This book endeavours to demonstrate this for the Netherlands in the latter half of the 18th century.

In the international debate on the history of female homosexuality, the latter half of the 18th century is not an unimportant period, and specifically Dutch history has been brought into the debate in various ways. It was the American literary historian Lilian Faderman, in Surpassing the Love of Men (1981) who first gave homosexual women a history of their own. She located the past of the homosexual woman in the ‘romantic friend’, a term, 18th-century in origin, for a woman who had an   ‘all-consuming emotional relationship’ with another woman. According to Faderman, these romantic friendships were chaste because women were simply not assumed, at that time, to possess sexual desire; the romantic friend preferred a woman’s company to a man’s love without being able to adhere permanently to this preference, because women were simply expected to marry – and indeed had little alternative, if lacking independent means – and that a friendship of this kind was an uncontroversial and accepted part of the life of a woman who was not (yet) married. Faderman defined the romantic friend as the historical precursor of the late 19th-century.

In their book The Tradition of Female Tranvestism in Early Modern Europe (1989) the  Dutch historians Rudolf  Dekker and Lotte van de Pol develop an alternative view of the history of female homosexuality. Their basic assumption is that lesbian love, defined as a woman’s sexual desire for another woman, is timeless, but that owing to circumstances, it has not always been able to manifest itself in the same way. Before the end of the 19th century, in other words before medical practitioners had diagnosed the identity underlying this desire, a women possessing such desire would be bound to have problems concerning her identity.
As sex was believed at the time (the writers assure us) to be something that could only exist between a man and a woman, a lesbian was forced to conclude that she was a man, and the only way of satisfying her desire was to pass as the man she thought she was and that she indeed had to be if she wanted to gain a woman’s attention. During the 17th and 18th centuries, this course of action became possible for the first time in West European history. 

It was this point in time, for diverse reasons – a desire tot earn men’s wages, a hankering after adventure – that many women took to wearing men’s clothes and leading men’s lives, a development that provided a particularly attractive solution for women with an identity problem. Dekker en Van de Pol therefore regard the woman dressed as a man who used her disguise to find a woman lover as the first stage in the developmental history of the homosexual woman.

Finally the Dutch researcher Theo van der Meer in his Tribades on Trial  (1991) had identified a third figure as the most likely precursor of the modern lesbian. In the course of his research on the prosecution of sodomites in the Netherlands, he stumbled on a group of thirteen women who were brought before in Amsterdam courts at the end of the 18th century on indecency charges in relation to other women.
This study has subjected these different histories of precursors- different in the significance they accord to sex and sexuality, and different too in the social position of the women thus identified – to further scrutiny. To discover whether the historical continuity that each of these histories suggests stands up under the test of historicisation and the contextualisation of sex and sexuality, or whether it starts to display the cracks that one would expect from the perspective of social constructivism.

In the writers Betje Wolff and Aagje Deken, who lived and worked together from 1777 until their deaths in 1804, Dutch history gives us two women whose ideal of friendship and social background is entirely comparable with the Ladies of Llangollen, Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, who shared their lives in Wales from 1778 until Butler’s death in 1829.’s death in 1829. Their friendship of true souls was far from exceptional in the well-t-do, scholarly and largely Protestant middle classes, and in the latter half of the 18th. Century it was certainly regarded as worthy of emulation. But given that this friendship of true souls was based on a relationship between kindred spirits, and souls and spirits were traditionally regarded as sexless, it was not related to sex; a friendship of true souls might exist between  two women, but it might equally well exist between two men or a man and a woman.

The idea underlying the research on cross dressing described in  Soul and Senses is that it is unsound to take for granted that cross-dressing in a woman desiring another woman’s attention, is sufficiently explained by that desire. Rereading in this light the stories of passing women that Dekker and Van de Pol regard as the precursors of the lesbian, is becomes clear that women in men’s clothes represented not lust for women but lust for sensual pleasure, which made no distinction according to sex.

The women identified by Van der Meer as the precursors of the modern homosexual woman – the women charged with indecency offences with other women at the end of the 18th century- have likewise been placed here in a broader social context.


The journey from one alleged precursor of the homosexual woman to the next gradually reveals an 18th-century mentality in which love and desire, masculinity and femininity, and men and women may relate to each other in ways that do not fit into our 20th-century assumptions concerning sex and sexuality. At that time, women who wanted to share their desires or their lives with women belonged to a world in which the difference between the sexes was reduced not to anatomical but to social differences, and in which this difference was not a dichotomy but a continuum. In the 18th century, soul and senses, which would increasingly come to be understood, in the course of the following century, in terms of a sex-specific psyche an sex-specific desire, were simply not bound to men and masculinity, or to women and femininity; neither soul nor senses discriminated on the basis of sex.
To regard the various forms of love and desire in the latter half of the 18th century as the historical precursors of female homosexuality is to construct a false continuity which obscures a vie of the world that was radically different from our own, one that was based on one sex and on the sex-indifference of soul and senses.   



W.R.D. van Oostrum (Pim)

Juliana Cornelia de Lannoy 1738-1782, ambitious, frank and quick, Hilversum 1999

Juliana Cornelia de Lannoy (1738-82) belongs to a small group of Dutch 18th century female writers who attack enforced gender roles with wit and verve. Sexual polarity originates from a presupposed natural superiority of the first and inferiority of the second sex, and leads to a contrast between the spheres, attributes and capacities of male and female. Throughout het work the perception of this genderspecified world can be traced, as well as her criticism of the unjust situations which result from that for her sex.

She questions the assumption that women possess lesser intellectual capacities than men, and for that reason could neither turn in a noteworthy literary performance and reach the top of the Parnassus, nor should be in any need to obtain worthwhile knowledge in their supposed destiny as wife and mother. In quite a number of poems De Lannoy proves this idea to be demonstrable misogyny prejudice.


She is convinced women could play an active and equally important role in a large range of literary genres and make a valuable contribution to the judiciary, military and political area, territories then forbidden to them, if upper and upper-middle class girls were as well educated as boys and no longer excluded from serious intellectual pursuits.

De Lannoy’s driving force is to gain a social status and identity of her own as a poetess, and to be fully occupied with study, reading and writing, rather than to become someone’s wife and thus forced to be chiefly concerned with gendered activities. She wants to compete with male poets and sets about striving for recognition from the literary establishment. She openly avows her desire to equal the famous French dramatist Pierre Corneille and her consuming thirst for contemporary fame and literary immortality, which was an inappropriate for women in those days as seriously writing itself. Nevertheless the Lannoy becomes very successful as a playwright of three tragedies – following the rules of the French classical dram of Corneille, Racine, Crébillon and Voltaire -, and four large lyric poems, two literary genres men claimed to be their speciality and territory.

The kind of praise she received from the male literary and cultural establishment is predictable: she has been complimented upon having a masculine intellect, as well as a masculine way of writing.


Her excellence as a poetess established her reputation. But by emphasising the exceptional nature of her ability men tried to strengthen their own position and to hinder the entrance to their ranks by social closure. De Lannoy claimed to represent her sex and declared her marks of honour legitimate from that moment on for all women. For that reason the bitterest irony of all is that her success made her an unreachable role-model. 


The awareness of her exclusion from the world of men, in particular the military life of her father and his ancestors, give rise to her statement that writing is the only possibility to show her patriotism.

By practicing study and by writing seriously, women expose themselves to public spite and mockery. The more knowledge they acquire, the more necessary it is for them to display ignorance. Women like De Lannoy, who struggled openly towards literary excellence, had to be some kind of an oddity; in one of her poems De Lannoy remembers being called a savante because of her Aan mijn Geest. It was commonly said that intellectual training would be detrimental to her natural gifts of sensibility, modesty, purity, tenderness etc. A savante was to be respected as a person, not sexually loved as a woman and as such she was denying her ‘natural’ destiny. The aforementioned spectators give many example of this attitude.       


She wrote witty occasional verse for public figures and locally celebrated men and did not hesitate to mock them by the way they acted, behaved or dressed themselves. In these poems she uses literary techniques to attack the social convention and capitalizes on the courtesy of men proudly proclaiming to be unable to refuse any demand from the female sex.
Jest being her favourite weapon and directness of speech being one of her characteristics, she excels in the sonnet du coude, the sonnet which turns de world upside-down at the end. In these sonnets she ridicules gracefully the stereotyped gender-specific literary representation of both sexes. These poems preserved her fame into the 20th. Century


Riet Schenkeveld-van der Dussen

Met en zonder lauwerkrans


The study of women writers of the past has only in recent years gathered momentum in Belgium and the Netherlands. Emancipation movements have been moderate here. A small country, with a language not widely spoken and a limited number of academics, is another explanation. In 1936 Annie Romein-Verschoor wrote a stirring study of modern women’s novels, Vrouwenspiegel (Womens’s mirror) from a Marxist perspective, condemning them in the most absolute terms as being entirely concerned with rich, middle-class women with no conception of life’s real problems. Some pioneers offered surveys such as the anthology Vergeten vrouwen uit de Nederlandse literatuur tot 1900 (Forgotten women in the Netherlands literature before 1900) in the feminist magazine Chrysallis (1980).
Of course the rise of women’s studies in universities was a great help – especially, however in the moderne field.  In our own time, canonized women have received due critical and biographical attention. The dix-huitiémist Peter J. Buijnsters has writtern no less than five books on the life and work of Betje Wolff and Aagje Deken (1741-1804), who usually published their writings jointly, including an edition of their wonderful correspondence. 

But whatever the causes of this state of affairs, much pioneering work had to be done for Wreath of laurels. Crowned and uncrowned women writers of the early modern period 1550-1850: from Anna Bijns to Elise van Calcar. The decision to take the women’s writers as a separate group was the first step. The women began close to home with moralistic, religious lyric poetry, then moved to political pamphlets and plays, even epics. The real innovation came only with a genre which came into being in the Netherlands at the end of the eighteenth century: the domestic novel.
A second decision was that the book had to be a combination of reference work, anthology and a general introduction to the phenomenon of women writers in the period.
The choice  was made not to present fine and interesting texts, but women’s place within the literary enterprise, the conditions which enable them to work, the problems they encountered, the help they received from male insiders, and so on.

The result is a big book with perhaps an almost comical effect in an international context. A thousand pages on three centuries of Dutch women’s literature, while the Norton anthology of literature by women (1996) manages with its 800 pages to cover the same period for the whole of the literature in English language, including American literature. The Norton can build on a whole series of previous studies and there are also English-language anthologies covering separately the 17th century, the 18th and the Romantics.

One reviewer could not really see what was left to be done  now. The lack of monographs on important authors, studies of genre, explanations for the ideological swings that have taken place through the years, studies of readers’ responses, the lines along which the canon  was formed, the international context – he could think of none of this. 


Suzan van Dijk, Lia van Gemert and Sheila Ottway, editors

Writing the hiostory of women’s writing
Towards and international approach, Amsterdam 2001

Aspects of the Production and Reception of Female Writers in an international context is the subtitle of the collection of essays of international scholars titled: Writing the history of women’s writing published by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001.
The topic of this collection is Met en zonder lauwerkrans , a sizeable anthology of Dutch and Flemish female authors between 1550-1850, published in 1997.

Review Irmgard Heidler :

Readers are offered the possibility to follow up as well re-appraise problems,  theories, possibilities and conventions of the historiography of feminist approaches to literature. The essays introduce women authors, their genres in languages and literatures, many of which geographically close but also virtually unknown. Comparisons are made, and the question of how to write the history of women’s literature is posed again.
The collection contains 20 essays on female authorship between the 16 th. Century and the beginning of first feminist movements in different European countries in the 19.th century.

The essays are the proceedings of an 1998 colloquium for feminist literary scholars equally from the Netherlands and Belgium on the one hand, as well from North America, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, France and Hungary on the other hand.



Yearbook of Women’s history


Nr. 13, Amsterdam 1993
Myriam Everard
An old gentleman in the Garden of Eden. Comments on Ín Praise of Men’by Petronella Moens and Adriana van Overstraten.

In this postcript to the 1791 poem ‘In Praise of Men’- ode to men that really is an ode to masculine women – the present author highlights themes of travesties and gender transgressions, angelic friendship and heavenly union, in the lives and works of the authors, the ‘romantic friends’ Petronella Moens (1762-1843) and Adriana van Overstraten (1756-1828). By showing Moens’ literary impersonations of Damon, her evocations of paradisiacal innocence and her private experiments of cross-dressing in the attic, Everard creates a biographical palimpsest of gender in late eighteenth-century Netherlands.


Skript, Historical magazine nr. 20

Autumn, 1998

Edwina Hagen

The year 1800 marks a turning point in women’s history, caused by the changing role women got in the politic culture. At the end of the eighteenth century women got more freedom in politics, in the first decades of the nineteenth century, politics were forbidden terrain for women. For France this problem is investigated by Joan Landes uthor of Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution (Ithaca 1988)  and Dorinda Outram, author of The Body and the French Revolution. Sex, Class and the Political Culture.(New Haven 1989).
Landes concludes that the French Republic was constructed against women, not just without them. Women were associated with the pernicious culture of the court.
Outram also concludes that the political exclusion of women was inherent to the revolutionary
discussions. The revolutionaries admired the stoic body control. All other representations were weakened models for political change.

In the Netherlands, or in 1800 the  Batavian Republic, the situation was something different. Women lost their indirect  political influence.. The changing is visible in the writings of the poetess and journalist Petronella Moens (1762-1843).
She was a  patriot writer between in the political change  between 1787-1795, at first in 1795 she wrote openly against the Oranges. She worked together with the fanatic patriot Bernardus Bosch. In 1798 she edited her own magazine  The Girlfriend of the Nation.   This  spectatorial weekly also intended to educate the citizens of the society.
The  Girlfriend cannot be seen as a proto-feminist women’s magazine: the lagging of women’s education is criticized, but not the only wit. The readers are mixed, men and women. Yet the magazine has a mean in emancipation because of her presentation as a woman and writing about political items.

‘It is really rare in those days, that a woman has the courage  to appear openly, to admit her patriot feelings and to place them for all her fellow countrymen in the light. ’

Several questions are to be answered in the magazine:
The benefit of the armament of the citizens, central administration of the Republic, the subdivision of the land in departments.

Moens, unmarried, without children and blind, links the love for the fatherland with motherhood. The women, without constitutional rights, loved the country like a loving mother and wife. Moens, addressing the Batavian mothers:

Yes, to you too, decent Batavian citizens, the nation entrusted the care for her  body politic. Much, very much is depending on your power of judgment and your heart.  The luck of the people must, perhaps more than you know, be founded and supported. You are able to give her the noble, useful working members, or you can, by propagation of the moral corruption,
destroy endlessly more, than the largest enemies ever.     


Striking is that Moens speaks to the female citizens, but never pleas for women’s rights. Their citizenship is linked first and for all to her motherhood. Mothers had to educate their sons in a good moral citizenship. Therefore she asked better education for girls and women.  Politic education was a natural part of it. If no education, no bond  to the nation. It would be like ‘the clumsy cattle and  the pasture its grazing.’
She argued in  favour of the Jews, to get sociable acceptation. Two years after the formal equality, discrimination was still practiced. She mentioned the machinations during the choice of governors and civil servants.  Already in 1786 she published a poem  ‘Esther’ dedicated to the honourable leaders of the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam. Although  she said the  Jewish opinions were deviant, they deserved our compassion.

In 1791 Moens published with her friend Adriana van Overstraaten a poem Poetical thoughts about the slave trade. Later on with her friend Bernardus Bosch About the slave trade. A year later  she praised the French Nation by abolition of the slave trade.  By disputing a good treatment of the slaves, Moens accepted implicitly the slavery.  She is outraged about the slave trade because of the cruelties of the slave traders, separating mothers and children.
The Jews and the slave trade were patriot topics. Economical problems overwhelmed social and moral objections so that the constitution of 1798 did not speak about these items.
M. Ferguson wrote about the women and slavery in Subject to others. British Women Writers and Colonial Slavery, 1670-1843 (New York/London 1992).


In spite of her patriotic engagement Moens in women’s history Moens is not described as an advanced guard in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century Moens is reckoned to the royalists, a pious writer, a writer of novels and pedagogical well-considered books for children en religious inspired, moral articles. This image is right in fact, but in the nineteenth century, the people in the Netherlands looked back in anger tot the history of the Batavian Revolution. They liked to see the history from an ideal of national reconciliation, from an Orange perspective.

Moens got disillusioned by the political developments after the year of revolution 1795. In 1802 she was still impressed by Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1815 she praised the Waterloo  hero’s that attacked the monstrous Corsican.  
In pure patriotic way Moens’ turn was radical.  In the patriotic period her heroine’s  were female warriors from the bible en the national history , in the first decades of the nineteenth century she especially presented mothers as wives as heroines.     

A part of her former longing for engagement and radicalism was staying. After her death two of her intimate friends called her a woman with an ever lasting interest in the public case,  and they mentioned her thought as ultra-freedom-loving .
Some tracks of her former political interest are found in her work after 1815. She mentioned another time the emancipation of the Jews  en the slave trade. The item women and politics is back in her work at that time.  Her opinions were unchanged and clear:  as Batavian patriot she wanted women to be good informed about politics. As Orange writer she  propagated by through  fictitious grandmothers, mothers and daughters exactly the same. In her Diary fot my female fellow countrymen, appearing in 1826, she wrote that it was necessary that young women were educated in the adventures of the native country.
In the same way as her weekly The Friend of the Fatherland  she demonstrated that women were very capable to educate a new moral. Women were, -in her eyes,-  based on their  natural gifts, moral superior to the men. They compensated their physical weakness  with their moral chastity.  Shortly: women were the less physical, more inspirited gender.
In her Legacy to my female countrymen she asked to what extent the Enlightenment meant progress for women. One of her conclusions was that women were interested in politics. This was new since 50 years.  Formerly they were told that knowledge of politics was useless and they knew as much from politics as their lap dogs. They did not read at that time newspapers . Thanks to the enlightenment, their politic knowledge substantially increased. Mothers told their daughters the way a nation should be governed and who made the laws and the way they were put in an effect. Only the most important chastity, the love for the nation, was a valid reason to train women in the basic knowledge of the government.

The slave trade was item in her exotic utopian novel  Aardenburg, of de onbekende  volksplanting in Zuid-Amerika (1817). Aardenburg, or the unknown peoples plantation in Southern America.            
An utopia, characterized by an honest treatment of slaves and women.

Most women participated in the politic discussion at the end of the eighteenth century. They had no opportunity to vote and their influence was not great.
Most of them were silent after the turn of the century. Not however Petronella Moens. She wrote several novels, articles and poems with a political content. During  the United Kingdom she published several books and articles about moral questions, like female  politic participation and  prejudices about slave trade and Jews. Motherhood remained the central issue. It allowed her to speak about the social relevant questions. Most of them are found in the novels, especially written for women and girls. The political engagement has to be seen in a wider perspective.
When in 1813 the Belgian question arose, Moens reacted as one of the first. She was an example of the increasing  female interest in politics in the eighteenth century and during the first decades of the nineteenth century.   

Women writers and the reception of their works: http://www.databasewomenwriters.nl/
Digitaal vrouwenlexicon van Nederland.

Aardenburg, of de onbekende volksplanting in Zuid-Amerika,(1817) adapted edition with preface and explanation by Ans J, Veltman-van den Bos & Jan de Vet, Nijmegen, 2001. 
‘Aardenburg, or the educational paradise of Enlightenment of Petronella Moens’, in: Migration, Minorities and Multiculturalism in European Youth Literature, (Heidy Margrit Müller & Alistair Kennedy editors) 2001.

From here: Presentation the pedagogical works of Petronella Moens

Petronella Moens: The Friend of the Nation, 1799, nr. 13.

E. Wolff-Bekker, Proeve over de Opvoeding, Aan de Nederlandsche Moeders, Amsterdam ,1780 (2e druk), p. 19-20.


J. Bowen, A History of Western Education, vol. 3. 1981, p. 180.

Lea Dasberg: Het kinderboek als opvoeder. Twee eeuwen normen en waarden in het historische kinderboek, Assen 1981.

Jan van Coillie and Stef Loots: ‘Life’s college: summary of the children’s and juvenile books in Flanders in the nineteenth century. Refleks 2/3, (1984).

Joke Linders-Nouwens: Anthology and History of  juvenile literature 1988 – Anne de Vries What are good children’s books, 1880-1980 ?  1989 -  Netty Heimeriks & Willem van Toorn : History of the children’s book in the Netherlands and Flanders from the middle ages till now, 1990 – Joke Rietveld-van Wingerden : The juvenile magazine in the Netherlands 1757-1942, 1992 – P.J. Buijnsters & Leontine Bijnsters-Smets: Bibliography of the Netherlands school- and children’s books 1700-1800, 1997.

Petronella Moens, Six religious thoughts to encourage my suffering countrymen, 1835.

‘ De populaire klassiek humoraalpathologie: de invloed die een overmaat aan zwarte of gele gal op de gemoedsrust had.  Zowel mannen als vrouwen werden ontvankelijk geacht voor het destabiliserend effect dat een verstoord evenwicht tussen de lichaamsvochten op de geest kon hebben. 


Source: http://www.petronella-moens.nl/vrouwenstudies.doc

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Female writers in the literary critics


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Female writers in the literary critics



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Female writers in the literary critics