chapter  Chapter 12
6 Pages

The Young Woman in Ancient French Proverbs

WithJean-Louis Flandrin

There have probably been happy and unhappy young women in most societies — or moments of joy and moments of unhappiness for most individuals. But historians, like other social scientists, are not yet able to talk seriously of happiness and unhappiness, which are too subjective and too ephemeral. It is also difficult to ascertain how many determined and clever young women managed to shape their lives as they had decided and how many, on the other hand, allowed themselves to be guided entirely by the will of others. Leaving aside these unanswerable questions, and others which have been studied too much recently, 1 I will devote this short chapter to ancient society's attitude towards young women, i.e. to its image of the ideal, well-brought-up young woman. To what extent has this image changed? Each reader must decide for himself or herself.