‘Gij echtpaar, vol van deugd’. Huwelijk en sociaal werk rond 1900


  • Christianne Smit


Also in the Netherlands, the last quarter of the nineteenth century saw the rise of the socalled ‘social question’. Reformers developed initiatives to solve the various problems of the working class caused by industrialisation and urbanisation. Plans and activities to educate and civilise the workers in social and cultural respect formed an important aspect of these initiatives. This social work was considered to be especially suitable for women because of their presumed feminine capacities. In this article the questions are raised how a married status influenced women who carried out social work and whether specific gender characteristics can be traced within their activities. Three socially engaged married couples are portrayed whose activities enveloped various forms of social work. Their cases prove that a married status did not restrict women’s social activities. It could even be a stimulant to start social work, in some cases in harmonious cooperation with their spouse. Besides that, the specific female characteristics did not seem a constraint for social activities by women in general, as the growing importance of the work did allow them to carry out their work in a broader setting and in a much more public way and to enter fields that had been restricted to men before as well.