Gendered Spaces in Academic Research
"Time Marches On but space is a kind of stasis, where nothing really happens."1 With this pointed comment, the geographer Doreen Massey (1944–2016) criticized already in the early 1990s the concept of space as a rigid backdrop to historical events, which was widespread in the humanities and social sciences. She was referring to the fact that space is not a rigid container, but rather the result of construction processes and thus dynamic – and above all relational. Relational space emerges through connections between various objects, people, concepts, rules and places. Thus, it has physical and social or cultural components. A relational understanding of space enables us to capture the cultural dimensions of spaces, as "räumliche Strukturen sind eine Form gesellschaftlicher Strukturen."2 One of these cultural dimensions of space is the category of gender, which is central to the arrangement of many social structures. Spaces are "are gendered in a myriad different ways, which vary beteen cultures and over time".3 Here Massey was putting the ball in the court of – among others – the historical sciences, which have been slow to join the game.
The relationality of spaces and thus the genuinely spatial composition of social contexts and cultural configurations was for a long time only recognized by the historical sciences in a peripheral way, if at all.4 Apart from a few isolated works, it was only recently that historians began5 to perceive space in a relational way, and not just as a "container" in which events occur. History as an academic discipline was late to endorse the so-called "spatial turn" of the late 20th century, and disciplines like geography, sociology, architectural theory, city planning, ethnology and cultural anthropology had started to engage systematically with the gendering of (relational) spaces considerably earlier. An interdisciplinary research field emerged dealing with gendered spaces, which often drew on the knowledge of women's history and gender history, even though these disciplines did not pay attention to the spatial dimensions to the same extent. Therefore, there is a need for historical research employing the concept of relational space, not only to fill lacunae in historical research but also to provide research results requested by neighbouring disciplines.
In existing historical works on space and gender two main focal points can be distinguished. Firstly, there is an emphasis on the long 19th century, with significant interdisciplinary with contributions from literary studies and art history. Secondly, there are numerous studies concerned with the early modern period. But all in all gender and space is a peripheral topic in the historical sciences, with large lacunae remaining in research. Also, more studies concentrate on normative discourses than on tangible practices of spatial construction. There is a lamentable lack of overview works and syntheses, especially ones with a comparative European perspective. Primary sources yield little information on rural spaces and urban underclasses in particular. National, regional and local differences have also been dealt with in a selective way to date, or only as a by-product of research with a different focus.
This article cannot close the existing lacunae in research. By drawing on selected examples this article aims to expose the construction mechanisms of gendering (relational) spaces and to discuss the most important thematic axis along which gender spaces are being researched. This is the private/public dichotomy and the paradigm of the separate ''spheres'' of women and men. An overview of the origins and significance of the spheres model as a normative element of gendered spaces is followed by two examples, which analyse one female and one male space5 respectively. These case studies are intended to uncover the construction mechanisms and the uses the space itself and its physical components as sources. This distinguishes this article from the majority of contributions on gender and spaces, which often research the discourse on spaces or social practices, but neglect space itself as a primary source. The examples chosen are close to each other both temporally and spatially for ease of comparison. Both – the Palais de la femme at the Paris Exposition of 1900 and the Paris Panthéon – are part of a broader European context and are examples of a European discourse, but are situated in Paris. As the ''capital of the 19th century'', Paris is an obvious choice because it played a central role in European cultural transfer as a trendsetter. The architecture in both examples receives special attention because architecture and works of art are generally well suited to reconstructing cultural transfers and the activities of the actors involved. Thus, for example, the Louvre in Paris was the model that the Kaiserforum in Vienna sought to outdo. Tracing these cultural transfers would go beyond the scope of this article, but it is nonetheless important to point out that architecture was media medium of cultural transfer that centrally shaped gender spaces. The important role played by architecture is due not least to the fact that societal power relationships also manifested spatially, as demonstrated by staterooms at court.
Private and Public – in Search of a Societally Relevant Dichotomy?
The idealized dichotomy between private life and the public sphere, between the household and the family comprising the female ''sphere'' and the political-economic domain comprising the male "sphere", implied different spaces, tasks and norms of behaviour for men and women. This model was the product of a long history. By the second half of the 19th century it had been established as a cultural leitmotif throughout Europe and across large sections of society by the socially advancing middle classes.6
A form of this allocation of spheres to the genders can already be observed for the 15th century.7 It became very prominent, for example, in the moralistic discourse in early modern England from the late-16th century onward.8 As Amanda Flather has shown for the long 17th century, however, the reality was much more diverse. There was a high degree of local variation influenced by factors such as time, place, profession and social status, and the spheres model thus only partially explains the relationships between the sexes in early modern England – not least because the model was inherently contradictory.9 Space was a basis for the formation of gender identities. Status and gender were constantly physically displayed and negotiated in daily life, beginning with the bed in which a person slept, their place at the table and the food they ate, the control of access to the various rooms in a house, clothing, gestures and language. For example, speaking loudly, having an upright posture and using expansive gestures were a way of personally appropriating space that – in theory at least – allowed a man more space than his wife, who was supposed to subordinate herself to him. However, in reality there were women who conducted themselves as resolutely as men, which was criticized by the moralists.
In the Enlightenment, the spheres model was declared to be a universal ideal, and it was persuasively disseminated by the actors of the Enlightenment. This is apparent, for example, in the context of the countryside and the German-speaking Enlightenment. While before the 18th century cultural norms allowed active – albeit different – economic roles for both women and men, a different attitude became dominant with the modernization of agriculture.10 The Enlightenment economists’ concepts of a modern, reformed agriculture increasingly incorporated the model of separate spheres, in which the woman was no longer a partner and representative of her husband, but a housewife with a comparatively narrow sphere of activity. We can assume that there was a difference between academic discourse and local practice here too. Nevertheless, the example demonstrates how the discourse on gender changed over time in all areas of life. With the introduction of the Code Napoléon and the laws that derived from it in the 19th century, legal standards were transformed across Europe, and the spheres model was also reflected in the new legal framework.
The effect of the spheres model differed depending on the local, regional, social and economic conditions.11 In central and western Europe, it had a strong normative effect among women of the middle classes. At least in theory it was not acceptable for them to move around independently in public. They were able to visit family, friends or the church unaccompanied, but could not visit a museum or go for a stroll on their own. If they were encountered in such situations without appropriate company, like their husbands or a family member, it was considered scandalous. A woman sitting on her own in a café would be suspected of being a prostitute. At times, there even were night curfews for women in cities like Berlin, primarily intended to combat prostitution.12 In the 19th century, a bourgeois man could experience and inhabit a city entirely differently than a woman from the same milieu. A working-class woman, by contrast, had more freedom. Economic pressures made it necessary for her to be able to move around in the urban space on her own. Consequently, in the middle-class-dominated discourse, working-class women were viewed as having questionable morals. Gender not only affected the use of spaces, but also their design. The upper-middle-class boudoir or Frauenzimmer was a space created specifically for women, while by contrast plans for the new city hall of Paris in 1874 only provided for male toilets. The architects did not expect there to be female administrative staff or women conducting official business there because they would need a male guardian to do this for them.
The model of the separate spheres had an effect well into the 20th century, even in contexts where one would not expect it, for example in ''Red Vienna'', the social democratic governed Vienna of the interwar years. A large-scale municipal housing- programme was realized there with the intention to implement socialist reform ideas. However, no buildings with communal kitchens and services that made housework and childcare easier for women were realised, even though this would actually have corresponded more closely with the ideology. Instead, small individual apartments with kitchens large enough for a nuclear family were built.13 The opening hours of laundries, etc. were such that they could only be used by housewives, not by people in employment. Consequently, advertisement photographs of laundries only showed women washing.14 Thus, the social democrats also adhered to a separation between gainful employment and housework based on gender, as demonstrated in thousands of apartments through the apartment building programme. As these examples illustrate, the spheres model played an important role in the formation of modern gendered spaces. It dominated the discourse on gender and space and structured the environment. At the same time, it often remained an unrealised ideal and the reality varied considerably depending on the context.
Pantheons and the Cult of Great Men
Like the spheres model, the concept of the "great man" has a long history. "The great man stands out by virtue of several exceptional qualities; he has great ability, a comprehensive perspective, he devises great plans, he does great things."15 This was how the Larousse encyclopaedia defined the "great man" or grand homme in the mid-19th century. There was no female equivalent to him. Women could achieve fame and become a femme illustre, but they were not on a par with "great men" and there was no comparable cult around them. The decisive feature of the "great man" was that he used his exceptional intellectual and moral qualities for the benefit of the common good (often defined in national terms), particularly in the fields of politics, science and the arts. Military commanders could also be "great men", though at its apogee the concept had a strong middle class and civic flavour to it, as demonstrated for example by the numerous Goethe and Schiller monuments erected in Germany. But it was in France that the concept of the “great man” was strongest, and it was from there that it was taken up in Germany.16 The concept became so popular throughout Europe that there was a veritable cult of the "great man". This cult not only manifested itself very conspicuously in monuments, but also in particular in the European pantheons.
Whether Westminster Abbey in London, the Panthéon in Paris or the Pantheon in Rome, the pantheons are tourist magnets. They are considered attractions because they are housed in architecturally grand buildings and because the famous people interred there have a strong attraction. Their fame ennobles the place of their burial. Today the term "pantheon" usually refers to such a resting place of "great men", though the function and the name has not been consistent throughout history. The Pantheon in Rome was built in the second century AD as a spiritual space and a cult site for the veneration of all gods, and after the conversion to Christianity it was dedicated to the Mother of God. After the burial of the painter and architect of the Italian high Renaissance Raffaello Sanzios (1483–1520) in 1520, the building became the prototype of a more narrow concept of the function of a pantheon: the burial site of illustrious artists and men.
Throughout Europe the cult of the grand homme flowered, though large pantheons remained rare at this time. What is conspicuous in the construction of pantheons is the long period of time, the west-east gradient and the pioneering role of Renaissance Italy. After the repurposing of the Roman Pantheon in the 16th century, England followed close behind with Westminster Abbey. As early as 1400, the diplomat and writer Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1340–1400) had been interred in the famous abbey, where previously almost exclusively members of the royal family were laid to rest. However, his conspicuous grave monument that can still be seen today was only constructed in 1555, when the redefinition of the abbey as a pantheon began. With the burial of a second poet, Edmund Spenser (ca. 1552–1599), in 1599, Poet's Corner was established, where celebrated artists have since been buried or honoured with a monument.
The Paris Panthéon was constructed between 1758 and 1790 as the Church of Sainte-Geneviève. During the revolutionary events of 1791, it was desacralized and as a strong symbolic act repurposed as a burial place of "great men". In 1842, Walhalla was built near Regensburg, a hall of fame for German intellectual greats with monuments instead of graves. During the 18th and 19th centuries, in parallel with the rise of the concept of the grand home, pantheons became increasingly fashionable as memorial sites for "great men". In this process, the concept of the pantheon moved so far from its roots as an architectural site that in the early-20th century it was even common for a piece of paper with the names of famous men printed on it to be referred to as a pantheon.17 This worked because the paper pantheon was part of a discourse on "great men" and referred back to its famous architectural predecessors.
Like monuments to "great men", the pantheons are spatial markers for the cult of the grand homme, which is very closely connected with the rise of middle-class gender concepts to become the dominant model in society. Because the "great man" had become famous through his own achievements alone and not through birth, he embodied an idealized middle-class masculinity, lending weight to the idea of advancement through merit and thus the change to a bourgeois society. No other structure illustrates this like the Paris Panthéon, which was desacralized and resacralized depending on the form of government that prevailed at the time, until it finally remained a republican cult site from 1884 onward. Since then, meritorious French personages have been buried there with state honours and important political ceremonies also take place there. During the course of the 19th century and reaching a climax around 1900, the cult around the grands hommes became central to the political culture of France, but also to gender identities. On the gable of the main facade of the Panthéon, an inscription in large letters reads: "Aux grands hommes la patrie reconnaissante" – the fatherland remembers its "great men". The cultural achievements of the nation were frequently cited, as embodied by intellectual greats such as Voltaire (1694–1778), and the grands hommes were depicted in oratory, literature and images as ideal men. For example, large murals in the Panthéon depict Clovis (466–511) riding into battle, Charlemagne (747–814) being crowned, Louis IX (1214–1270) holding court. Large monuments erected around 1900 dominate the interior: groups of brave soldiers celebrate the French fighting spirit and the revolutionary army; orators and publicists strike poses; in the former apse, a monumental mural 6.4 by 9.5 metres in size depicts famous members of the National Convention swearing allegiance to an allegory of the Republic, while behind the allegory a group of soldiers depart for the revolutionary wars. There are numerous female allegorical figures in the murals and in the monuments. However, the only women who are honoured are the saints Genoveva (ca. 422–ca. 502) and Jeanne d'Arc (1412–1431), who appear in murals from the time when the building was still a church. If the Panthéon had not been used as a church for a period, it is likely that no woman would be honoured in the interior. The inscriptions from the 20th century also honour men: Résistance fighters, writers and philosophers. The grands hommes are depicted in the paintings and sculptures as men in their 'prime', large in stature, with striking faces, an upright posture and in vigorous poses, gesticulating or engrossed in their work. The situation is similar with the people interred in the Panthéon. Male intellectuals, artists, writers, scientists, doctors and politicians constitute 32 of those honoured in this way. The Panthéon is dominated by the display of idealized masculinity. As a site of great symbolic significance for the French Republic, it marks the cultural achievements that are important for the French Republic, as well as politics itself as a male domain and the public sphere as a male sphere.
A brief look at the ceremonies that have taken place in and around the Panthéon makes this picture even clearer. The gigantically-staged funeral of Victor Hugo (1802–1885), which brought more than a million spectators onto the streets of Paris on June 1, 1885, gives an impression of the importance of the Panthéon as the memorial site and symbolic temple of the nation. The funeral procession passed right through the city and ended at the Panthéon. It was reported on in great detail in the illustrated press. The funeral procession was depicted at the time as consisting overwhelmingly of men and official dignitaries (who at that time were all men), even though women participated also, for example in the delegation of foreign students. This is shown for example in this image from L'Illustration of June 6, 1885. Military men and civilian office holders approach the Panthéon side by side, and in so doing demonstrate national unity. A cordon of soldiers keeps the street free for the funeral procession, and women are only visible among the spectators.
The construction of the public sphere as a male sphere in the Panthéon has only recently begun to change through the honouring of women. Five of them have been interred in the Paris Panthéon. Sophie Berthelot (1837–1907) was buried there in 1907, but only because her husband had been laid to rest there. In 1995, Marie Curie (1867–1934) was the first woman to be buried with state honours in the Panthéon in recognition of her achievements. Since 2015, three more women have been similarly honoured. A comparison shows that there is a similar gender division in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. Three of the 53 people buried there were female. Of those honoured with a monument there, ten were women, while 59 were men. Almost all the monuments to women have been erected since the 1950s, while only half of all the monuments have been erected over the same period. This is an indication of the efforts within society towards greater equality between the sexes, though it by no means brings an end to the cult of the "great man", which is nevertheless well past its apogee.
The cult of the "great men" is not limited to the Paris Panthéon. There are hundreds of statues of grands hommes around the city of Paris. Most of the streets are named after them. There are many depictions of them on building facades and in the ornate spaces of stately buildings – and Paris is dominated by these buildings symbolically and structurally, particularly in the city centre.18 These tributes demonstrate visibly and tangibly that the ''public'' urban space in Paris was constructed and envisaged as a male domain. This pattern exists in other European cities also – the modern city seems to have required it.
Palais de la femme at the Paris Exposition of 1900
Just as the pantheon was conceived as an explicitly male space, there were also explicitly female public spaces. While it was the dominance of the concept of the public space as a male space that led to the pantheon being inevitably conceived as a cult site to "great men", in the case of great exhibitions or world's fairs it was the lack of public spaces for women that resulted in women's pavilions. It should be repeated that the public sphere(s) was/were only exclusively male in terms of an ideal concept, but never in reality. Just as the French nation and its figure of identification, the grand homme, were celebrated in the Paris Panthéon, the nation states celebrated themselves in the worldꞌs fairs. Additionally, progress – particularly in the form of technological innovations – was celebrated as a civilizing achievement. As an important theme of the 19th century, ''progress'' was closely connected with masculinity because men – as ingenious inventors and researchers – were perceived as the drivers of progress. This is also the circle of people who were honoured in the Panthéon.
The official organization of world's fairs was firmly in the hands of men – though all world's fairs also involved the participation of women in many ways. Particularly significant in this context were the local women's committees that helped to raise money privately for the running of the world's fairs. For example, the Women's Centennial Executive Committee helped to raise funds for the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. When it became apparent that the organizers were including hardly any of the work of women in the exhibition, the Women's Committee successfully collected money for their own exhibition building for women. More generally, women were represented at world's fairs indirectly by the products that they helped to manufacture. Like their male colleagues they remained anonymous – with the exception of works of art, for which the artist's name was always given. At world's fairs, some female artists were present in the pavilions of their nations in order to promote their own work, albeit rarely. One encountered women at these events more frequently as employees in the numerous restaurants and other places of amusement, and as the "scantily clad inhabitants of exotic villages".19 Women were also represented among the exhibitors from a broad range of industries, though – taking the example of the Vienna World's Fair of 1873 – as a single digit percentage of exhibitors, with the exception of the craft textile industry.20
In addition to Philadelphia in 1876, there was also an exhibition building for women in Chicago in 1893, and in the Paris Exposition of 1900. Thus, the idea of making the achievements of women visible or of creating something specifically for the female audience was retained. The Paris Exposition of 1900 featured the Palais de la Femme, which a women's committee had campaigned for.21 Initially, the commission organizing the Exposition had promised the women's committee that it would finance an official exhibition palace for women. But for financial reasons, it subsequently backed away from this commitment. In response, the women got organized and raised the funds themselves. The planning and realisation of the structure was again firmly in the hands of men. Two architects were commissioned to do it.22 The design of the palace was tailored to its purpose. As the journalist Anne St. Cère (alias Anna Lindau, ca. 1853–1940) put it, "The architect, M. Pontremoli, was able to capture the grace and allure of lovely femininity in stone and stucco."23
In the eyes of contemporaries, it was an elegant building that echoed the contemporary gender discourse even through its architectural design. In contrast to its forerunner in Chicago, it was not constructed to emphasize the participation of women in cultural, artistic and technological progress. Instead the palace was intended to be a space that female visitors to the Exposition could withdraw to and be safe, and it had the ''private'' atmosphere of a club: "this most elegant of all women's clubs, which will be an almost indispensable place of refuge and recovery for foreign ladies travelling without male protection".24
In the planning of the palace, women were strongly perceived as consumers and creatures in need of protection and a space to rest. This included toilette rooms, a reading salon (with works by female authors) and products that were viewed as typically feminine, for example articles of toilette and personal hygiene, fine textile goods and craft items. Some of these articles were produced right in front of the visitors. On the first floor, ''new'' professions considered suitable for women were presented, such as telephonist, printer and office assistant. Thus, the ''women question'' (Frauenfrage) was dealt with to the extent that women were depicted as gainfully employed people. However, this remained within the limits of the middle-class gender discourse. Not female factory workers or female lawyers were presented as role models, but women who made lace or who worked as assistants in enclosed spaces protected from the public. They were intended to encourage the female visitor to choose – if it was necessary – a form of employment suited to their gender. As a brochure printed by the women's committee explained:
Quant aux femmes qui demandent au travail manuel les ressources de leur existence, on leur démontrera, en faisant exécuter devant le public … qu'elles auraient avantage à les faire chez elles. Il n'est que temps de lutter contre la tendance … qui attire la femme vers l'atelier, vers l'usine, où sa santé et sa moralité courent les plus grands dangers.25
The brochure promoted cottage industry as a feminine source of income for working class women26 by pointing to its advantages. This was in contrast to almost all other forms of employment. According to the brochure, it was "high time to fight the tendency … that is drawing the woman into the office, into the factory, where her health and her morality are severely threatened". There could hardly have been a more middle-class perspective on the labour market. As the emphasis on the merits of home-based work shows, the organizers understood women as beings of the private sphere, for whom various forms of the public sphere could even be dangerous. The middle-class discourse on the private and the public structured the design of the Palais, the way it was used, the reporting on it, and the messages that the visitors were given there. Various media were used to convey these messages. In the Palais, theatre plays and music by female artists were presented. Tableaux vivants27 demonstrated scenes from the lives of femmes illustres – Penelope, Cleopatra (69–30 BC), Cornelia (ca. 300), Madame Pompadour (1721–1764), Empress Joséphine (1763–1814)– and exemplary scenes of everyday life. "Nothing was omitted that might interest, entertain or educate women."28 The tableaux vivants depicted the femmes illustres in scenes that were not considered beyond modern women: playing music like Cleopatra, as matronly Empress Josephine at home, or as a paragon of marital fidelity like Penelope. Women were viewed as an audience to be taught and improved. This was much less the case with the technology-hungry men in the hall of machines. Congresses on the women’s rights were held in the Palais, as well as "talks on child-rearing, hygiene and medicine" and "cookery and housekeeping courses".29
Already the first women's pavilion in Philadelphia had dedicated itself to the domestic sphere as the sphere of female activity, and in addition to inventions by women – which often related to the household – it displayed labour-saving household utensils, furniture, rational dress and handiworks. All of the women's pavilions adhered to the usual gender discourse. There were only small variations in emphasis as determined by the national circumstances of the host city. In the women's pavilions, the various dimensions of the spatial construction of gender also overlapped. There was a physical space, a building, that was designed as a palace of women. The possibilities for designing this building (they were smaller, because less money was available) and the rules governing it (it had to be elegant and ''feminine'') point to the cultural structures according to which femininity was constructed. The space deemed appropriate to assign to women in the women's pavilions was the space of the private and domestic spheres – in the practical as well as the intellectual sense. This example demonstrates the multifaceted nature of relational space particularly clearly.
The women's pavilions illustrated the middle-class idea of the private woman, who should ideally spend her time in her own home, and demonstrated that this ideal laid claim to universal validity within society. The pantheon was a heightened expression of the public sphere as a masculine space. Together the women's pavilion and the pantheon represent the structure by which the modern city of the 19th century and well into the 20th century was designed. There were enclosed accommodation units for the nuclear family, in which the mothers were to look after the children – no communal kitchens or other facilities to make housework more efficient that would have saved space and transferred work from the home. Women were even supposed to do their gainful employment, if it was necessary, in the home. The public sphere was understood as everything that lay outside of the "home", the use of which was governed by separate gender-based rules. The public sphere was considered a male space, shaped by stately architecture that manifested these rules architecturally, whether in the public buildings of administration and education or in the private sector, for example, the headquarters of banks. However, it was not possible to separate the one part from the other – because the separation could not be maintained in reality, and because the private and public spheres were defined in opposition to one another, similar to the sharp dividing line drawn between the sexes. Furthermore, the example of the world's fairs shows – as does the example of the pantheon – that there was a cultural structure of gendered spaces that had international validity within European societies and societies with a strong European influence. In this case, it was the asymmetrical middle-class understanding of gender propagated by the Enlightenment that by the end of the 19th century had attained universal validity within society. The architecture of gendered spaces was one of the media of cultural transfer and simultaneously one of its results. It did not exist in isolation, but was part of a gender discourse and interconnected through other media such as specialist magazines on architecture and public art, literature, guidebooks for tourists, postcards, city vistas, city maps, newspaper articles, etc. Both examples demonstrate that architecture as a physical component of relational space could not be separated from the practices of utilizing space and was the embodiment of a superordinate discourse. The rules of the construction of gendered spaces changed over the course of history and exhibited milieu-specific, local and national features. There is considerable scope for further research here.