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2018 | 8 | 2 | 185-198

Article title

“Female Issue”. Polemics about Working Women in the Kingdom of Poland in the Period after the Suppression of the January Uprising (1864) and the Outbreak of the Great War (1914)

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Women’s right to work or, more widely, challenging the established social role of women was not a brand-new topic in the Kingdom of Poland during the 1860s. It had been discussed before on the public forum. However, after the fiasco of the January Uprising (1864), those issues were vigorously discussed in press polemics. It mostly emerged due to altered social and economic conditions. On the one hand, the Polish community learned about the development of the women emancipation movement in Western Europe and the United States, on the other hand, much of the gentry went bankrupt being unable to bear the post-Uprising repressions. Many women from that milieu had to face the necessity of earning their living. That issue was addressed in the press at the time and, considering the frequency of such publications and their tenor, it must have sparked many emotions. This article discusses solutions proposed by both those who supported progress and attempted to add new occupations to the women’s labour market and to help women with reformed education, and by defenders of traditional values. The latter protested the very idea of women working out of home as an affront to that gender’s calling – being a wife and a mother. They were not only concerned that work might prejudice women’s ability to take care of home or children, but the fact of eroding the traditional social order in which men were destined to the public sphere while women should reduce their ambitions to the private, domestic sphere. Accordingly, in the second half of the 19th century, we can perceive that the Polish press of that time tended to add more value to work done by women at home. Attempts were made to present it as a mission, not only on the home but also the social front. They tried to turn it into a science by proposing a new branch of science called the “national economy of women”. Another argument raised by those against the emancipation of women was the inherent “nature” of women who were allegedly predisposed to those tasks that are related to the role of wife, mother, housekeeper, to the exclusion of everything else. There was also a “compromise” option that if some women are forced to work because of unhappy wheels of fortune, they should choose jobs that would benefit from female characteristics such as compassion and taking care of details. However, the emotional nature, so typical of women, allegedly affected their view of the world and prevented them from working in such fields where objectivity was essential (medicine, law).










Physical description


  • Faculty of Philosophy and History, University of Łódz, ul. Lindleya 3/5, 90–131 Łódz, Poland


Document Type

Publication order reference


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