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A sphere of one's own: the eighteenth-century shift from a one- to a two-sex model of sexual difference

Faculty Advisor




Abstract (summary)

Drawing on a selection of primary and secondary sources, this paper extends Thomas Laqueur’s thesis that theories of sexual difference evolved from a one-sex to a two-sex model in the late eighteenth century by examining the political implications of this shift. Specifically, it will survey how proponents of the former model, such as Olympe de Gouges and Marquis de Condorcet, tended to dominate the moderate stage of the French Revolution, only to be violently excised from the public sphere during the radical Jacobin phase when Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s two-sex ideas about "natural" gender roles gained ascendance. The consequences of this shift were long-lasting, as France's "republican mothers" were shunted into the private sphere and denied the vote well into the twentieth century.

Publication Information



Presented in absentia on April 27, 2020 at "Student Research Day" at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta. (Conference cancelled)

Item Type

Student Report




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