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Princess Louise Henriette Wilhelmine of Anhalt-Dessau, painting by Angelika Kauffmann
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The house of the Princess in Wörlitz
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View from the garden to the house of the Princess and the tower of St Peter’s Church
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Elisa von der Recke, after a painting by Anton Graff
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Women in the 18th century

More than 20 museums have dedicated themselves to the question how life changed for women in the 18th century politically, artistically and economically.

State initiative »Saxony-Anhalt and the 18th century«

The State of Saxony-Anhalt has an exceedingly rich cultural and art historical heritage ranging from the early Middle Ages to the modern times. Within this period the 18th century plays an important role. Important local places and events are connected with this era which was considerably shaped by the Enlightenment. In order to broaden the awareness of this historically important period, the State of Saxony-Anhalt launched the initiative »Saxony-Anhalt and the 18th century« in 2003 as a joint venture of numerous museums and other cultural institutions under the auspices of Saxony-Anhalt’s Prime Minister Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Böhmer.

Theme years

Since then, each year the activities of the museums focus on a different aspect of this period. Past years explored the themes of education, art, gardens and libraries. Little known treasures within the collections could thus be brought to the public’s attention.

Women in the 18th century

However, it is not only the surviving physical objects that characterise the period. Without regard to the people of the time our view of history would be incomplete. It is for this reason that 2008’s theme year makes women the centre of attention.

It is true that the enlightened discussion of the 18th century contributed to differentiated gender roles, but there was not yet the strict separation between public and private that characterised the 19th century and which limited women to the one-sided role of mother and housewife. Women participated in many ways in the political, social and artistic life of their time. The social status of upper middle class and aristocratic women left them more and more freedom to follow their own inclinations. The Sentimentalist movement in particular which formed towards the middle of the century was considerably shaped by women who were not willing to be pinned down to traditional behavioural patterns.
The 18th century as a century that cultivated letter writing and reading is unthinkable without the contribution of women. Many reading circles in Halle, Merseburg, Magdeburg or Stendal were initiated by women.

Many different events

More than 20 museums have dedicated themselves to the question how life changed for women in the 18th century politically, artistically and economically. How did women experience the major events of their time? What did they read and why? Did girls have a right to learn more than just needle work and cooking? Were marriages still arranged or could women chose their own partners? These are just a few questions that will be answered.

Co-operation partner is the project ”Frauen-Orte” (lit. women’s places), which since 2000 has identified places in Saxony-Anhalt where women made history or where there were major developments towards emancipation of women.


Women in the 18th century

Dr. Wolfgang Savelsberg
Kulturstiftung Dessau-Wörlitz
Interimsanschrift: Ernst-Zindel-Str. 8
06847 Dessau-Roßlau
+49 (0)340 / 64615-35

State initiative: Saxony-Anhalt and the 18th century

Das Gleimhaus
Domplatz 31, 38820 Halberstadt

Phone: +49 (0)3941 68 71-0

Learn more

Further information on the various venues and the calendar of events can be found under:

The calendar of events and an information leaflet can be obtained via the Kulturstiftung DessauWörlitz or the Gleimhaus in Halberstadt.