The contest between the moralist and the sensualist had spent itself, and for the first time in English history we come upon a period whose distinctive characteristic was conventionality. Women in everyday life felt the spell of this goddess less than did the great ladies. Over the fashionable world she reigned supreme; but common women, while they admired, and, as far as possible, imitated the ways of their social superiors, showed themselves mere children of nature. There was more material than intellectual improvement. The literary movement hardly touched women in everyday life; the philanthropic movement had not made any headway, and as for politics, it was only the great ladies, with relatives and friends among statesmen, who concerned themselves with public affairs. Morals were at a low ebb, and female education was anything but inspiring.
Returning to the sixteenth century we further observe that no country of Europe contained so many teachers, professors, and patrons of literature and real science in general, as German; accordingly a portion of the universal enthusiasm for the ancient languages, and for the restoration of religion and letters, could not fail to be communicated to the wives and daughters of the friends of these uplifting subjects.
It is, nevertheless, a matter of surprise, that in those times of the greatest fermentation and enthusiasm, a greater number of German women did not obtain celebrity by their erudition of their writings. Excepting the princesses of the house of Austria, very few German women of the sixteenth century and following distinguished themselves by their literary attainments, or their patronage of the learned. Charitas, an abbess of the convent of St. Clara, at Nürnberg, read Greek works and wrote Latin letters, a small collection which is still preserved. Constantia, a daughter of the learned Peutinger of Ausburg, has received worthy mention by Ulrich von Hütten; but other examples of participation in learning and letters by women of Germany are rare.
Spain remained very far behind all other civilized countries of Europe in regard to the number and zeal of the friends of learning. That many, who were acquainted not only with the Greek and Latin, but also with the Hebrew and other Oriental languages, or stepped forward as public orators, to fill the pope and the cardinals with astonishment, or to convert the obstinate Jews.
In the next century, on the continent, as in England, the partiality of the sex to ancient literature and the study of the sciences, properly so called, was considerably diminished. At the same time, however, the desire of acquiring a knowledge of the modern languages and their best works, and the ambition of speaking and writing the mother tongue with their best works, and the ambition of speaking and writing the mother tongue with elegance and precision, gradually became more general, especially in France.
The state of female society in America bore a general resemblance to the English, though considerably modified by the peculiar circumstances of the country. Great value was placed upon education from the beginning; and marked privation for the sake of placing the children in good schools was not uncommon. There were, during this period, not many instances of the thorough and elegant female education, which the higher classes of the French and English received, but women were generally intelligent and well informed; a good knowledge of history, the popular sciences, Latin, French, and Italian, were common acquisitions.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.