Women of Literary Salon Feminism and the Literary Salon: Women in 18th-Century France
Anne-Marie Lugan-Dardigna is a well-known French feminist. She is the author of Femmes femmes sur papier glacé and of a book on 20th-century literature, Les Châteaux d’Eros ou les infortunes du sexe des femmes (Maspero).
In France, the struggle for women’s rights is a very ancient one. In the 17th and 18th centuries it found expression in literary salons led by such famous figures as Madame de Tencin, Madame du Deffant, Madame Geoffrin and later by Madame du Châtelet and Madame d’Epinay.
Against a backdrop of royal and religious absolutism, these women managed to create an atmosphere in which the new ideas of the Enlightenment philosophers, scientists and writers could thrive and spread. These ideas included the need to give girls and boys equal access to education.
The refusal for centuries to grant girls the right to an education lies at the core of male-female inequality. But if girls became educated it was hoped that women would attain a new social role.
What happened in the 18th century to make it ‘women’s century’ — a time when women’s sway was consolidated, thanks to the salons where for several decades they welcomed and protected the philosophers and writers of the Enlightenment?
• This book is part of the series on psychoanalysis, under the editorship of Aldo Naouri and Charles Melman.
• A form of what we would now call feminism emerged in the salons.
• A series of portraits of influential women who were all ahead of their time. The author delves into an era known for its abundance of innovative ideas and literary works and when demands were being made concerning the role of women in society.
• In the history of the slow evolution of women’s status, the pre-revolutionary period in France remains crucial even today: because of the progress that was made and the legal rights that were won, but also because of what was overlooked and the barriers that were put up.
• This period sees the beginning of the conflict between the aspirations of women and of mothers — a conflict that continues to fuel contemporary feminist debates.