Becoming a Woman in the Dutch Republic: Advice Literature for Young Adult Women of the 17th and 18th Centuries

van Tilburg, M. 2017 (Accepted/In press) The Youth of Early Modern Women . Reeves, M. & Cohen, E. S. (eds.). Amsterdam University Press

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

In the Dutch republic seventeenth-century authors of marriage manuals and conduct books for women did not distinguish the young, nubile ones from married adults. Marriage was the core teaching, and all were admonished not merely to obey their husbands but also to identify with them. In stressing the importance of unity [and order?] in the family and society, Jacob Cats in 'Houwelick' [Marriage] (1625), for example, goes well beyond the teachings on marriage of both Protestant and Catholic churches. In the eighteenth century, however, models of human relations evolved, and conduct books diversified with some addressed directly to young women. Concerning marriage, Dutch authors came to argue that hierarchy should give way to partnership. Writers associated with the Enlightenment 'Society for Common Good' discussed love, romance and sexuality. They explained that every marital relationship starts with mutual sexual attraction, but also warned that attraction was not enough to establish a household and sustain a responsible partnership. Only towards the end of the eighteenth century did authors start to address a specifically youthful readership understood to be going through a hazardous phase of life with volatile physiological and psychological tendencies, such as a lively imagination. Loosjes and Suringar van der Wal, for example, develop a model for education in which the new ideals on love, partnership and sexuality are integrated. These authors take the young woman's dreams for the future seriously.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Youth of Early Modern Women
EditorsMargaret Reeves, Elizabeth S. Cohen
PublisherAmsterdam University Press
StateAccepted/In press - 2017


  • Girls , Education, Gender

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