Frauenfrage is the literal German language equivalent of The woman question.
However, in history, it is specifically associated with a Medieval demographical period when many men could not marry due to a population explosion and the demands of the patrimonial lineage and the apprenticeship system, both dowries and the price of admission to a convent skyrocketed. Simply put, it was hard to marry daughters off because there were few available bridegrooms, and so entry into a nunnery became more desirable, demand rose and prices with it. Many women could not afford to marry or join a convent. Beguinages became their refuges.
The Catholic Encyclopaedia printed in 1912 the following, which also sheds a light on the link between both.
The social position of woman is, from the Christian point of view, only imperfectly set forth in the expression "Woman belongs at home". On the contrary, her peculiar influence is to extend from the home over State and Church. This was maintained at the beginning of the modern era by the Spanish Humanist Louis Vives, in his work "De institutione feminae christianae" (1523); and was brought out still more emphatically, in terms corresponding to the needs of his day, by Bishop François Fénelon in his pioneerwork Education des filles "Education of girls" (1687).
The Christian emancipation of woman is, however, necessarily checked as soon as its fundamental principles are attacked. These principles consist, on the one hand, of the sacramental dignity of the indissoluble marriage between one [heterosexual] pair, and in religious life, voluntarily chosen virginity, both of which spring from the Christian teaching that man's true home is in a world beyond the grave and that the same sublime aim is appointed for woman as for man. The other fundamental principle consists of the firm adhesion to the natural organic intimate connection of the sexes.
As far back as Christian antiquity the Manichaean attacks on the sacredness of marriage as those of Jovinian and Vigilantius, which sought to undermine the reverence for virginity, were refuted by the Church Fathers St. Augustine and St. Jerome.
Martin Luther's attack upon religious celibacy and against the sacramental character and indissolubility of marriage, worked permanent injury. The chief result was that woman was again brought into absolute dependence upon man, and the way was made ready for divorce, the results of which pressed far more heavily upon woman than upon man. After this the natural basis of society and the natural position of woman and the family were shaken to such extent by the French Revolution that the germ of the modern women's suffrage movement is to be sought there.
The anti-Christian ideas of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries led to a complete break with the medieval Christian conception of society and the state. It was no longer the family or the social principle that was regarded as the basis of the state, but the individual or the ego. Montesquieu, the "father of constitutionalism", made this theory the basis of his "L'Esprit des lois" (1784), and it was sanctioned in the French "Rights of Man". It was entirely logical that Olympe de Gouges (d. 1793) and the "citizeness" Fontenay, supported by the Marquis de Condorcet, demanded the unconditional political equality of women with men, or "the rights of women". According to these claims every human being has, as a human being, the same human rights; women, as human beings, claim like men with absolute right the same participation in parliament and admission to all public offices. As soon as the leading proposition, though it contradicts nature which knows no sexless human being, is conceded, this corollary must be accepted. Father von Holtzendorff says truly: "Whoever wishes to oppose the right of women to vote must place the principle of parliamentary representation upon another basis ... as soon as the right to vote is connected only with the individual nature of man, the distinction of sex becomes of no consequence" ("Die Stellung der Frauen", 2nd ed., Hamburg, 1892, 41).
The men of the French Revolution forcibly suppressed the claim of the women to the rights of men, but in so doing condemned their own principle, which was the basis of the demand of the women. The conception of society as composed of individual atoms leads necessarily to the radical emancipation of women, which is sought at the present time by the German Social Democrats and a section of the women of the middle class. In her book, published in 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft advanced this demand with a certain reserve, while John Stuart Mill in his "The Subjection of Women" (1869) championed the unnatural position of women unconditionally. The English suffragettes have made a practical application of Mill's views as the standard work of radical emancipation (cf. "A Reply to John Stuart Mill on the Subjection of Women", Philadelphia, 1870).
The introduction of these ideas into practical life was promoted chiefly by the change in economic conditions, particularly as this change was used to the detriment of the people by the tendency of an egotistical Liberalism. From the beginning of the nineteenth century manufacturing by machinery changed the sphere of woman's labour and of her industries. In manufacturing countries woman can and must buy many things which were formerly produced as a matter of course by female domestic labour. Thus the traditional household labours of woman became limited, especially in the middle class. The necessity arose for many daughters of families to seek work and profit outside of the home. On the other hand, the unlimited freedom of commerce and trade furnished the opportunity of gaining control of the cheap labour of women to make it serve machinery and the covetousness of the great manufacturers. While this change relieved the woman who still sat at home, it laid upon the homeless working-woman intolerable burdens, injurious alike to soul and body. On account of smaller wages women were used for the work of men and were driven into competition with men. The system of the cheap hand led not only to a certain slavery of woman, but in union with the religious indifference that concerned itself only with mundane things injured the basis of society, the family.
In this way the actual woman question, which is connected at the same time with the livelihood, education and legal position of woman, arose. In most European countries, on account of the emigration arising from the conditions of traffic and occupation, the number of women exceeds that of men to a considerable degree; for instance in Germany in 1911 there were 900,000 more women than men. In addition, the difficulties of existence cause a considerable number of men to marry at all or too late to found a family, while many are kept from marriage by an unchristian morality. The number of unmarried women, or of women who notwithstanding marriage are not cared for and who are double burdened by the cares of the home and of earning a livelihood, is therefore constantly increasing. The census of occupations in Germany of 1907, gave 8,243,498 women who were earning a living in the principal occupations, an increase of 3,000,000 over 1895. The statistics of the other countries gave proportionate results, although there are hardly two countries in which the woman movement has had exactly the same development. The southern countries of Europe were coming only gradually under the influence of the movement. A regulation of this movement was one of the positive necessities of the times. The methodical and energetic attempts to accomplish this date from the year 1848, although the beginnings in England and North America go back much farther. The attempts to solve the woman question varied with the point of view. Three main parties may be distinguished in the movement for the emancipation of women in the present day:
- the radical emancipation, divided into a middle-class and a Social-Democratic party;
- the moderate or interconfessional conciliatory party;
- the Christian party.
The radical, middle-class emancipation party regards the Women's Rights Convention held 14 July 1848, at Seneca Falls, N.Y., as the date of its birth. Complete parity of the sexes in every direction with contempt for former tradition is the aim of this party. Unlimited participation in the administration of the country, or the right to the political vote, therefore, held the first place in its efforts. The questions of education and livelihood were made to depend upon the right to vote. This effort reached its height in the founding of the "International Council of Women", from which sprang in 1904 at Berlin the "International Confederation for Woman's Suffrage". The Woman's Bible by Stanton, seeks to bring this party into harmony with the Bible. The party has attained its end in the United States in the states of Wyoming (1869), Colorado, Utah (1895), Idaho (1896, South Dakota (1909) and Washington (1910), and also in South Australia, New Zealand (1895) and Finland. In Norway there had been a limited suffrage for women since 1907. In 1911 Iceland, Denmark, Victoria, California and Portugal decided to introduce it. In England the suffragists and the suffragettes are battling over it (cf. Mrs. Fawcett, "Women's Suffrage. A short History of a Great Movement", London, 1912.) In Germany in 1847 Luise Otto-Peters (1819-1895) headed the movement, in order at first with generous courage to aid the suffering women of the working classes. Her efforts resulted in the "Allgemeiner deutscher Frauenverein" (General Union of German Women), which was founded in 1865, and from which in 1899 the radical "Fortschrittlicher Frauenverein" (Progressive Women's Union) separated, while the Luise Otto party remained moderately liberal. In France it was not until the Third Republic that an actual women's movement arose, a radical section of which, " La Fronde" (paraphrasing an older aristocratic-royal civil war), took part in the first revolution. From the start the Social-Democratic party incorporated in its programme the "equality of all rights". Consequently, the Social-Democratic women regarded themselves as forming one body with the men of their party, while they kept contemptuously separated from the radical movement among the middle-class women. August Bebel's book "Die Frau und der Sozialismus" went through fifty editions in 1879-1910, and was translated into fourteen languages. In this work the position of woman in the Socialistic state of the future is described. In general the radical middle-class emancipation agrees with the Social-Democratic both in the political and in the ethical spheres. A proof of this is furnished by the works of the Swedish writer Ellen Key, especially by her book "Über Ehe und Liebe" 'On marriage and love', which enjoy a very large circulation throughout the world.
This tendency is not compatible with the standard of nature and of the Gospel, but is a logical consequence of the one-sided principle of individualism which, without regard for God, came into vogue in what is called the "Rights of Man". If woman is to submit to the laws, the authoritative determination of which is assigned to man, she has the right to demand a guarantee that man as legislator will not misuse his right. This essential guarantee, however, is only to be found in the unchangeable authoritative rule of Divine justice that binds man's conscience. This guarantee is given to women in every form of government that is based on Christianity. On the contrary, the proclamation of the "Rights of Man" without regard to God set aside this guarantee and opposed man to woman as the absolute master. Woman's resistance to this was and is an instinctive impulse of moral self-preservation. The "autonomous morality" of Kant and Hegel's state has made justice dependent upon men or man alone far more than the French "Rights of Man". The relativity and mutability of right and morality have been madea fundamental principle in dechristianized society. "The principles of morals, religion, and laware only what they are, so long as they are universally recognized. Should the conscience of the sum total of individuals reject some of these principles and feel itself bound by other principles, then a change has taken place in morals, law and religion" (Oppenheim, "Das Gewissen". Basle, 1898, 47).
Woman is defenceless against such teaching when only men are understood under the "totality of individuals". Up to now as a matter of fact only men have been eligible in legislative bodies. On the basis of the so-called autonomous morality, however, woman cannot be denied the right to claim this autonomy for herself. Christianity, which lays the obligation upon both sexes to observe an unalterable and like morality, is powerless to protect women in a dechristianized and churchless country. Consequently, only by the restoration of Christianity in society the rightful and natural relations of man and woman can be once more restored. This Christian reform of society, however, cannot be expected from the radical woman movement, notwithstanding its valuable services for social reform. Besides what has been said, the "movement for the protection of the mother" promoted by it contradicts completely the Christian conception of marriage. (Cfr. Mausbach, "Der christliche Familiengedanke im Gegensatz zur modernen Mutterschutzbewegung", Munster, 1908).
The moderate liberal woman movement was also incapable of bringing about a thorough improvement of the situation, such as the times demanded. It certainly attained great results in its efforts for the economic elevation of woman, for the reform of the education of women and for the protection of morality in the first half of the nineteenth century, and has attained still more since 1848 in England, North American and Germany. Jessie Boucherett, Elizabeth Fry, Mary Carpenter, Florence Nightingale, Lady Aberdeen, Mrs. Paterson, Octavia Hill, Elizabeth Blackwell, Josephine Butler and others in England, and the names of Luise Otto, Luise Büchner, Maria Calm, Jeannette Schwerin, Auguste Schmidt, Helene Lange, Katharina Scheven etc., in Germany, are always mentioned. At the same time this party was liable to uncertain wavering on account of the lack of fixed principles and clearly discerned aims. While these women's societies call themselves expressly interdenominational they renounce the motive power of religious conviction and seek exclusively the temporal prosperity of women. Such a setting aside of the highest interests is scarcely compatible with the words of Christ, "Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33), and all the more incompatible with the teaching of Christ on marriage and virginity, which is of the highest importance, particularly for the well-being of woman. A successful solution of the woman question is only to be expected from a reorganization of modern conditions in accordance with the principles of Christianity, as Anna Jameson (1797-1860) has set forth in the works, "Sisters of Charity" (London, 1855) and "Communion of Labour" (London, 1856). The effort has also frequently been made by Protestants in England, America and Germany to meet the difficulty in imitation of Catholic charitable work: thus in 1836 the German "Institute of Deaconnesses" was established.
In Germany the first attempt to attain a solution of the woman question by orthodox Protestants was made by Elizabeth Gnauck-Kühne, who founded the "Evangelisch-sozialer Kongress" (Protestant Social Congress). This movement was represented since 1899 by the "Deutsch-evangelisches Frauenbund" and by the women's society of the "Freie kirchlich-soziale Konferenz". A profound Christian influence upon the woman movement was not to be looked for from these sources. Protestantism is a mutilated kind of Christianity, in which woman is especially injured by the abrogation of the dedication of virginity to God. Still worse is the effect of the constantly increasing decay of Protestantism, in which the denial of the Divinity of Christ constantly gains strength. For this reason the Protestant Church party in the agitation for women's right in predominantly Protestant countries was much smaller than the liberal and radical parties.
Catholic women were the last to take up the agitation. The main reason for this is the impregnability of Catholic principles. Owing to this woman's suffrage did not become a burning question as quickly in the purely Catholic countries as in Protestant and religiously mixed ones. The convents, the indissolubility of sacramental marriage and the customary charitable works kept in check many difficulties. However, on account of the international character of the movement and the causes which produced it, Catholic women would not finally hold back from co-operation in solving the question, especially as the attack of revolutionary ideas on the Church today is most severe in Catholic countries. For a long time Christian charity has not sufficed for the needs of the day. Social aid must supplement legal ordinances for the justifiable demands of women. For this purpose the "ligues des femmes chrétiennes" were formed in Belgium in 1893; in France "Le féminisme chrétien" and "L'action sociale des femmes" in 1895, after the international review, "La femme contemporaine", had been established in 1893. In Germany the "Katholisches Frauenbund" was founded in 1904, and the "Katholische Reichs-Frauenorganisation" in Austria in 1907, while a woman's society was established in Italy in 1909. In 1910 the "Katholisches Frauen-Weltbund" (International Association of Catholic Women) was established at Brussels on the insistent urging of the "Ligue patriotique des Françaises". Thus an international Catholic women's association exists today, in opposition to the international liberal women's association and the international Social-Democratic union. The Catholic society competes with these others in seeking to bring about a social reform for the benefit of women in accordance with the principles of the Church.
Apart from the light thrown by Catholic principles on this subject, the solution of the tasks of this Catholic association is made easier by the experience acquired in the woman's movement. As regards the first branch of the woman question, feminine industry, the opinion constantly gained ground that "notwithstanding all changes in economic and social life the general and foremost vocation of women remains that of the wife and mother, and it is therefore above all necessary to make the female sex capable and efficient for the duties arising from this calling" (Pierstorff). How far the opportunities for woman's work for a livelihood are to be enlarged should be made to depend upon the question whether the respective work injures or does not injure the physical provision for motherhood. The earnest warnings of physicians agree in this point with the remonstrances of statesmen who are anxious for national prosperity. Thus the speech of the former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., at the national congress of American mothers at Washington in 1895 met with approval throughout the world. (Cf. Max von Gruber, "Mädchenerziehung und Rassenhygiene", Munich, 1910). On the other hand, Catholic Christianity in particular, in accordance with its traditions, demands from women the most intense interest in working-women of all classes, especially interest in those who work in factories or carry on industrial work at home. The achievements of the North American "Working Women's Protective Union" and of the English "National Union for improving the education of all women of all classes" is given to this aim by the "Verband katholischer Vereine erwerbstätiger Frauen und Mädchen" (United Catholic Societies of Working-Women, Married and Unmarried) of Berlin.
The second branch of the woman question, which must follow directly after that of gaining a livelihood, is that of a suitable education. The Catholic Church places here no barriers that have not already been established by nature. Fénelon expresses this necessary limitation thus: "The learning of women like that of men must be limited to the study of those things which belong to their calling; The difference in their activities must also give a different direction to their studies." The entrance of women as students in the universities, which has spread in all countries, is to be judged according to these principles. Far from obstructing such a course in itself, Catholics encouraged it, leading in Germany to the founding of the "Hildegardisverein" for the aid of Catholic women students of higher branches of learning. Moreover, nature also shows here her undeniable regulating power. There seemed no need to fear the overcrowding of the academic professions by women.
In the medical calling, which next to teaching was the first to be considered in discussing the professions of women, there were in Germany about 100 women to 30,000 men. For the studious woman as for others who earn a livelihood the academic calling is only a temporary position. The sexes can never be on an equality as regards studies pursued at a university.
The third branch of the woman question, the social legal position of woman, can, as shown from what has been said, only be decided by Catholics in accordance with the organic conception of society, but not in accordance with disintegrating individualism. Therefore, the political activity of man is and remains different from that of woman, as has been shown above. It is difficult to unite the direct participation of woman in the political and parliamentary life of the present time with her predominate duty as a mother. If it should be desired to exclude married women or to grant women only the actual vote, the equality sought for would not be attained. On the other hand, the indirect influence of women, which in a well-ordered state makes for the stability of the moral order, would suffer severe injury by political equality. The compromises in favour of the direct participation of women in political life which have of late been proposed and sought here and there by Catholics can be regarded, therefore, only as half-measures. The opposition expressed by many women to the introduction of woman's suffrage, as for instance, the New York State Association opposed to Woman "Suffrage", should be regarded by Catholics as, at least, the voice of common sense. Where the right of women to vote is insisted upon by the majority, the Catholic women will know how to make use of it.
On the other hand, modern times demand more than ever the direct participation of woman in public life at those points where she should represent the special interests of women on account of her motherly influence or of her industrial independence. Thus female officials are necessary in the women's departments of factories, official labour bureaux, hospitals, and prisons. Experience proves that female officials are also required for the protection of female honour. The legal question here becomes a question of morals which under the name of "Mädchenschutz" (protection of girls) has been actively promoted by women. Indeed, much more must be done for it. In 1897 there was founded at Fribourg, Switzerland, the "Association catholique internationale des oeuvres de protection de la jeune fille", the labours of which extend to all parts of the world. Thus considered the woman movement is a gratifying sign of the times which indicates the return to a healthy state of social conditions.