Plzeňské sympozia

Milena Lenderová

Experiencing identity, conformity and rebellion in 19th century women’s diaries

pp. 21–32 (Czech), summary p. 32 (English)

Correspondence and personal diaries are described by some foreign scholars as purely "feminine"genres. Regardless of the author’s gender, however, the personal diary is a unique source for the history of everyday life and the history of mentalities; it is an excellent source of evidence in the search for one’s own identity and place in life. This is demonstrated by the eleven diaries of girls and young women from the  Czech-speaking middle and (in just two cases) lower middle classes, born between 1829 and 1865, whose diaries we worked with.  Despite their varying scope,  frequency of writing, and length of their notes, they chart the intimate lives of their authors, reflecting their education, interests and attitudes towards their immediate and more distant surroundings.  They are of interest and importance for creating an image of the 19th century, although they do not always correspond to reality. For the most part, they make up an image which the author has formed of herself. Diary entries are a stylization as well as something of an exhibition, intended to present the author as she would like to be or as those around her would like her to be. If she does rebel then her rebellion is usually limited in time, as a reaction to the constrictive practices of her immediate environment, usually her family. With the ambitions of the patriotically active milieu in which the writers grew up and the prevailing gender construct, they were - with perhaps one exception - resigned to the fact that they would marry. Any other life path was rather the exception.

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Key words: 19th century, personal diary, women’s history, gender constructs

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