Gender and Civic Identity in eighteenth-century Aberdeen
In the context of shifting ideas fostered by the Enlightenment and by a drive for civility, this chapter focuses on the construction of male and female civic identities and the tensions between reconstructed masculinity and femininity. Changing views of sexual difference and ideals of masculinity and femininity informed the gendered nature of work, public life and political activity, while several different pressures came together to shape an emphasis on propriety and the desirability of establishing a civic identity that was not only personal, but also represented the town as a whole. It meant that personal civic identity was linked to the perception and outward projections of the town. Thus the chapter articulates the role and strategies of Aberdeen’s town council in regulating not only the economy but also civic spaces. It will look at how the council ‘managed’ the town with reference to the gendered character of decision-making in the face of shifting ideas of sociability, civility and town image and demonstrates how public behaviour, usually female activity, which was potentially damaging to the town’s civic identity was condemned, chastened and policed. A key issue is that men of standing and status, bourgeois men of position and wealth, largely policed women of the working classes according to the concept of civic nicety and politeness at ‘the council’s pleasure’.
Gender in Urban Europe: Sites of Political Activity and Citizenship, 1750-1900, 2014