Women in the Public Space of the Early 20th Century Czechoslovakia: The Guidebooks for „Proper Conduct“ in a Men's World

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:15
Location: Hörsaal 24 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Pavel POSPECH, Masaryk university, Czech Republic
Women in the public space of the early 20th century Czechoslovakia: the guidebooks for „proper conduct“ in a men's world

This paper focuses on the position of women in the public space of the early 20th century Czechoslovakia. Traditionally, the urban public space has been a masculine domain and the entrance of women into this domain has induced a change in the meanings, codes of conduct and standards of civility in public. In order to account for this change, the genre of „manners books“ and social life guidebooks has addressed the position of women in public space extensively, providing advice for women in everyday situations, from walking the city streets to social events. This paper is based on an analysis of these books, published in Czechoslovakia after 1900. Drawing on similar works by scholars on the U.S. (Sewell, Deutsch etc.) and on western Europe (Cas Wouters), the analysis focuses on women-specific rules of conduct in public space. The paper examines the inferior position of women in public and the ceremonial means of either overcoming it or suppressing its visibility. It is argued that ceremonial means and rules of conduct were employed to facilitate women's presence in public but also to provide legitimacy for their exclusion and their unequal position. The results are compared to developments in western Europe and in the U.S.