Introduction to the Exhibit

This exhibition, titled “Women and Gender in the Early Modern Europe,” attempts to construct an understanding of the role of women and the impact of assumptions about gendered roles on European societies by focusing on conjunctures that range from the Renaissance, the Reformations, Discovery of America, Scientific Revolution, to the Enlightenment.

Throughout mid-15th to 18th century, which is defined as the early modern period in this exhibit, we saw a gradual recognition of an autonomous female identity independent from religious institutions in Europe. This major development in women and gender history is part of the larger European revolution of the rise of secularism. The shift of emphasis from religious interpretations to scientific studies created more conversations and discussions about why the world was what it was and what should be the optimal way of functioning. Such debates were, in particular, highly remarkable during the Enlightenment period, when radical ideas of gender equality were proposed by radical thinkers.

Despite the major developments happening over the centuries, there were also certain social expectations of women that remained the same. For example, the role of women as wives in household has been the most important social identity of women. Moreover, early modern European societies were still male-dominated, and women were generally subordinate to men.

Overall, the gradual recognition of women and the long-standing social perception of a weak woman figure were still battling. However, the seed of modern day idea of gender equality was planted during this time period and gradually growing as the time goes.


Changlan Wang