The Surplus Woman: Unmarried in Imperial Germany, 1871-1918 | BERGHAHN BOOKS
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The Surplus Woman: Unmarried in Imperial Germany, 1871-1918

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Volume 30

Monographs in German History

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The Surplus Woman

Unmarried in Imperial Germany, 1871-1918

Catherine L. Dollard

Full Text PDF | Full Text ePUB Made available under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license with support from Knowledge Unlatched.

272 pages, 26 tables, 23 figures, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-480-7 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (October 2009)

ISBN  978-0-85745-313-6 $19.95/£15.95 / Pb / Published (January 2012)

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Dollard’s work makes important contributions to German cultural history, social history, and gender history, focusing attention on the construction of the stereotype of single women as abnormal, a problem to be solved, in Imperial Germany, and the way that the German women’s movement co-opted this icon for its own purposes of reform. She also brings to attention several lesser-known German female activists who have often been overlooked.”  ·  German Studies Review

“[This book] is a considerable achievement. The Surplus Woman is essential reading not only for feminist historians but also for anyone with an interest in gender politics and culture and deserves a wide audience.”  ·  Reviews in History

Dollard’s insightful analysis of the centrality of the female surplus to women’s rights activists is all the more provocative given that she so convincingly demonstrates in her first chapter that the surplus was a myth.”  ·  Journal of Modern History

"...transcends the usual analytical approach of earlier work...[and] examines a very broad spectrum of reformist, conservative, academic, socialist, feminist, and religious writers...It represents a new contribution to our understanding of the German women's movement."  ·  Nancy Reagin, Department of Women's and Gender Studies, Pace University

“…the book is engaging, exciting and challenging to read because it provides a new framework for known material. It is also well written and at times poignant, examining the contradictory worlds of single women as construct and reality and showing their place in women activists’ diverse efforts to challenge and reform their society.  ·  English Historical Review


The first German women’s movement embraced the belief in a demographic surplus of unwed women, known as the Frauenüberschuß, as a central leitmotif in the campaign for reform. Proponents of the female surplus held that the advances of industry and urbanization had upset traditional marriage patterns and left too many bourgeois women without a husband. This book explores the ways in which the realms of literature, sexology, demography, socialism, and female activism addressed the perceived plight of unwed women. Case studies of reformers, including Lily Braun, Ruth Bré, Elisabeth Gnauck-Kühne, Helene Lange, Alice Salomon, Helene Stöcker, and Clara Zetkin, demonstrate the expansive influence of the discourse surrounding a female surfeit. By combining the approaches of cultural, social, and gender history, The Surplus Woman provides the first sustained analysis of the ways in which imperial Germans conceptualized anxiety about female marital status as both a product and a reflection of changing times.

Catherine L. Dollard received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and currently is Associate Professor of History at Denison University. She is the recipient of Bundeskanzler and Renewal Fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and also has received fellowships from DAAD, the Mellon Foundation, and the Lilly Foundation.

Subject: Gender Studies and SexualityHistory (General)Cultural Studies (General)
Area: Germany

The Surplus Woman by Catherine L. Dollard is available open access under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) with support from Knowledge Unlatched.

Full Text PDF | Full Text ePUB

OA ISBN: 978-1-78533-662-1


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