i n t r o d u ct i o n
I
n 1869 John Stuart Mill wrote that ‘‘the surest test and most correct
measure of the civilisation of a people or an age’’ is its ‘‘elevation or
debasement’’ of women.∞ Charles Fourier, Friedrich Engels, Karl
Marx, and many European feminists shared the feminist and radical
maxim that a society’s level of advancement can be measured by the
condition of its women.≤ The meanings of that maxim extended beyond
feminism and radicalism and served European advocates of empire
equally well as a description of the superiority of their own societies
over others.≥ It posited a relationship among the condition of women,
progress, and hierarchical cultural comparison, linking women’s fate to
nineteenth-century Europe’s civilizing mission. The maxim presented
women as symbols of their respective societies’ backwardness or ad-
vancement. This book is about women in the German imperial met-
ropole who sought to be both symbols and agents of their society’s
advancement. Among them were conservatives, centrists, and radical
liberals, as well as feminists and antifeminists.
Between the 1870s and 1914 European states annexed territories in
Africa, Asia, and the Pacific at an unprecedented rate. This ‘‘new imperi-
alism’’ was no longer the business only of explorers and their royal
patrons; it was an enterprise shared between royal or republican rulers
and the citizens of nations, women as well as men, who were demanding
rights of political participation. The late nineteenth century was a high
point not only of European imperial expansion, but also of feminist and
socialist activity. In Germany, Bismarck, Emperor William II, and other
leaders hoped that imperial expansion would unite Germans divided by
region, class, religion, and political persuasion.∂
Between 1884 and
1900 Germany gained a colonial empire of about one million square
miles and about twelve million inhabitants. In 1884 and 1885 Germany
Previous Page Next Page